Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:39 am

CHAPTER XXXIX. The Third Metropolis of Tibet.

Owing to the cold season I could not observe the condition of the wheat actually growing in the fields, but I learned at the above village that in that locality the wheat crop was considered ordinary when it was at the rate of two bushels from two pecks of seeds, and unusually abundant when the rate reached three bushels. In the neighborhood of Lhasa four or five bushels are obtained from two pecks of seeds, if the weather proves favorable, but three bushels are passed as fair.

This testifies to the primitiveness of the methods of farming obtaining in Tibet. One cannot but be surprised at the ill-kept condition of the fields which, with their ‘rich’ deposits of pebbles, cannot be termed cultivated land in the proper sense of the word. I do not mean to speak ill of the Tibetans, but this curious neglect of cleaning the land is a fact; indeed, it is a universal feature of the country. I once suggested to a native farmer the advisability of removing the pebbles, but the reply was simply that such practices were not endorsed by tradition. Tradition is to the Tibetans a heavenly dictate, and controls all social arrangements. Those residing in more civilised parts of the country, however, entertain somewhat more progressive ideas, and have learned to utilise the products of modern ingenuity from the West. The case is quite different with the mass of the people, who are still laboring under a thousand and one forms of conservatism. A very curious story, in a way substantiating the foregoing statement, was told me by a village paṇdiṭ whom I could hardly credit, because of the apparent absurdity of his narrative. The story, which is given below, was[237] subsequently confirmed, quite to my surprise, by more than one citizen of Lhasa.

In Tibet, as in other countries, taxes are assessed on cultivated fields, but, as the Tibetans are practically strangers to mathematics, as stated in a preceding chapter, a very curious and primitive method is adopted with regard to the land-measuring which forms the basis of the assessment.

The method consists in setting two yaks, drawing a plough, to work upon a given area, the assessment being made according to the time taken in the tillage. In other words, the different plots of cultivated lands are classified as lands of half a day’s tillage, or a day’s tillage, and so on, as the case may be, and assessed accordingly.

After being entertained by the aforesaid scholar with many other interesting stories concerning the manners and customs of Tibet, as well as the conduct of native priests, we left the village and, proceeding for twelve miles along the edge of the lake mentioned above, reached a spot where we passed the night. On November 21st we struggled on our way through a gorge extending over a distance of five miles, till we found ourselves again on the edge of a big lake, called Nam Tso Goga. It measured about twelve miles in circumference, and its water was very pure. Proceeding along the northern bank of the lake, we passed into a valley commonly called the Senge Rung, or Lions’ Vale. This name must have been derived from the surrounding rocks, which somewhat resemble the figure of the king of beasts. After a journey of seven and a half miles through the vale, we arrived at a village bearing the same name, and then at another, where we took lodgings. We covered more than twenty-five miles that day, this forced journey being due to the necessity of altering our travelling arrangements. The fact was that, while our previous journey was through Jangthang, so that it was necessary for us to stop[238] early and graze our horses sufficiently, we had now entered into a more peopled and cultivated part of the country, where pastures were few, so that we could not stop until we reached a village where we could secure sufficient fodder for our animals. The fodder, which in Tibet usually consists of wheat and barley stalks and the stems of bean plants, is generally purchased from inn-keepers. The latter, however, extort such high prices, that fodder enough to feed a horse during a night often costs the traveller full thirty sen, though in some cases half that sum will be sufficient. In addition, beans and a solution of butter are sometimes given to horses, so that the caravan trade in the interior of Tibet is at once trying and expensive.

On November 22nd we proceeded about twelve miles over a steep slope and across plains, and arrived again on the northern bank of the Brāhmapuṭra. At this place the river was not quite as it was when we crossed it on our way. It now appeared quite fathomless, with its waters azure-blue, though it was only about two hundred yards wide. There was no hope of negotiating the stream on horseback, and we were told that the river-bed would become much wider in summer. There was, however, a ferry-boat service, a rectangular flat-bottomed boat, resembling those we see used for the purpose in India. The boat had in the middle of her stern a figure representing the head of a serpent, and had capacity enough to accommodate thirty or forty persons and twenty horses. When we landed on the opposite bank of the river, we found ourselves in the outskirts of Lharche, the city which is the third in importance in Tibet. Once there, we could fairly claim that we had gone far into the interior of the forbidden country, for it is only five days’ journey thence to Shigatze, the second Tibetan city.

Looking southward, we could see a caravanserai erected by the Chinese. It is spacious but unfurnished, no one[239] being in charge of it. It serves the double purpose of accommodating the Chinese itinerant traders and the native soldiers on march. We betook ourselves to the building for the night, which proved a jolly as well as a noisy one. It was thought very fortunate for us to have escaped from the dangers of robbers and wild beasts which infested the north-western regions, and my companions decided to celebrate the successful journey to their hearts’ content.

Throughout the night they indulged themselves in a carouse, which was enlivened by the attendance of several girls. During the next day, November 23rd, I was still staying with the rest of our party at the caravanserai, but as I was to part company with them on the 24th I read the gospel of Hokekyo, as a mark of appreciation of the kindness accorded to me by them throughout my journey with them. When the date of my departure came, the head Lama gave me ten tankas as a reward for my lectures on Tibetan grammar, while the rest of the party also collected among themselves a certain sum of money which they presented to me. A few of the party were to accompany me, for the Lama, with the junior Lama and a servant, decided to go with me, so that I was not alone on my road. We then set out, taking the road leading to the grand Sakya monastery. As for the men of the caravan, they were to proceed to Shigatze through Puntso-ling by the highway. Besides kindly carrying my personal effects together with their own, the senior Lama and party offered me the use of one of their horses, so that my trip with them was a very comfortable one.

We proceeded in a southerly direction, and for a distance of five miles our way passed through wheat-fields, the soil of which appeared to be very rich. Of all the districts in Tibet, Lharche can supply barley, wheat, beans, and butter at the lowest possible prices, which testified to the[240] position held by it with regard to agricultural products. We then ascended a rapid slope for another five miles, again traversed cultivated fields for about eleven miles, going in a south-easterly direction, and reached a hamlet called Rendah. The next day, after we had proceeded along a river for some eighteen miles, we saw before us the imposing monastery of Sakya, which was surrounded by high stone walls of about two hundred and twenty yards square, twenty feet high and six feet thick. All the structures were of stone, painted white, and the main edifice alone measured sixty feet in height, two hundred feet from east to west, and two hundred and forty feet from south to north. Over the walls, which were bow-shaped, rose a dark-colored castle, crowned with Saisho-doban (the victorious Standard of Buḍḍhism), and rodai (the disc for the dew of nectar) of dazzling gold. The spectacle was sublime and impressive, at least so far as outward appearances were concerned.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:40 am

CHAPTER XL. The Sakya Monastery.

We lodged at a neighboring inn which placed a cicerone at our service, and proceeded to pay a visit to the celebrated monastery. Going through the front gate and past several smaller buildings, we arrived in front of the main edifice. At first sight the interior of the latter appeared to be completely enclosed, but a closer examination showed that light was let in through a courtyard. Entering the front hall, seventy-eight feet by forty-two, we saw standing on both sides statues of Vajrapāni, each about twenty-five feet high, one painted blue and the other red, such as are seen on each side of the gate of every great Japanese Temple. Each image has its right leg a little bent and the left one put forward, while the right hand is raised towards the sky and the left one vigorously stretched downward. The workmanship seemed even to my lay eyes representative of Tibetan art, the muscles, for instance, being very excellently moulded. There are also images of the four heavenly kings, each thirty feet high, standing on the right side. Again, looking to the left, we saw on the wall (which was of stone over-laid with mud and then with some lime-like substance) beautiful pictures of deities and saints, which covered a space twenty-four feet by twenty-one. There is no fissure visible in the pictured area, in spite of its dimensions. The structure as a whole is in good repair. The front hall opens to an inner courtyard, paved with stone, thirty-six feet by thirty, where the priests of the inferior orders gather to dine and to read the scriptures, while the higher Lamas have the privilege of living inside the building. Passing this[242] courtyard we entered the main chamber (which faces west) where the images of Buddhist deities are placed. There are two entrances to this chamber, the southern one being open to the priests and the northern one to the visitors. Once inside, we were lost in a sea of dazzling gold; the splendor was simply beyond description. The ceilings and pillars are all covered with gold brocade, and the images, more than three hundred in number, are emblazoned with very fine gold. In the centre of the room there stands a statue of Shākyamuni Buddha, thirty-five feet high, which, we were told, is made of mud covered with gold. In front of this image are placed seven water-trays, some candle-sticks and a table for oblations, all of pure gold, with the exception of a few articles made of silver.

The disorderly manner in which the images are arranged, however, greatly detracts from the impression produced by their intrinsic merits. The spectacle is a grand exhibition of Buddhist fine arts, but put together without much order. In short, the chief feature of the chamber consists in its splendor, but its effect is greatly impaired by the tasteless and excessive decorations.

At the rear of this chamber there is another, sixty feet high and two hundred and forty feet wide, which is full of valuable collections of ancient Buddhist manuscripts, some written in gilded letters on dark blue-colored paper and others in Samskṛṭ on the leaves of the fan palm tree (Borassus flabelliformis). Many of these scriptures were brought all the way from India by the founder of the temple, Sakya Panḍiṭ, and his successors, who sent their priests to that country for the purpose.

With regard to the scriptures in the Tibetan language, I was told that they had a great number of them there, and that they were all written, not printed. We left this chamber, and while we were again looking round the[243] main chamber I was struck with a strong and offensive smell which, as my subsequent experiences taught me, is a curious feature of every monastery in Tibet. I wondered how I had been insensible to such a stench up to that time. Where did it come from? you may ask. Well! in Tibetan temples clarified butter is used in lighting the lamps offered to Buddha, and the priests are so careless as to throw away upon the floor the residue of tea and butter, which not only keeps the floor always wet but also putrefies. This is why the chamber is filled with such a sickening odor. Strangely enough, Tibetans regard this smell as a sweet one, but I declare myself emphatically to the contrary. On both sides of the main chamber we found two more chambers where different figures were also kept. Of these images, the one which especially attracted my attention was that of Padma Chungne, the founder of the old school of Lamaism, for it is made entirely of precious stones. The surrounding walls and the floor are also inlaid with gems, which are amazingly beautiful.

Outside the main edifice there are several dormitories where some five hundred men of the order live. Then standing to the south is the stately residence of the ‘great instructor’ of the temple, Chamba Pasang Tinle, who looks after the spiritual education of five hundred souls.

We had an interview with this spiritual superior, who looked very saint-like, seated on a dais covered with two mats in one of the upper rooms. I wanted to ask him a few questions with regard to the difference between the Sakya doctrines and those of the other sects of Lamaism, but he told me that he was busy then and asked me to come again the next day. We then retired and left the temple grounds.

I noticed several palatial buildings rising above a far-off willow plantation. My companions told me[244] that these buildings were the residence of the Abbot of the temple, Sakya Koma Rinpoche, and we proceeded to pay our respects to him. Koma Rinpoche means the ‘highest treasure’ and is used only in addressing the Chinese Emperor and the Abbot of the Sakya Monastery, whom Tibetans esteem as one of the two sacred beings of the world. This being so, the natives who are honored with an audience by the Abbot pay special respect to him, and when he gives them his blessing in return it is not infrequently accompanied by some presents. But in reality the Abbot is a layman, the essential point of his excellence being that he is the descendant of Sakya Panḍiṭ himself. He is married, takes meat for dinner, and even drinks wine, as do all the secular people. In spite of these facts, not only the public at large but also priests salute him with the rite of ‘three bows’ which as laid down by Buddha is a mark of reverence due only to high priests and not to laymen.

When we were received by the Abbot, I therefore paid him only such respect as would be due to a personage of his rank. He has, however, a very dignified mien, which bespeaks his noble descent.

While we were returning to our lodgings, I was blamed by my companions for my failure to give the Abbot the ‘three bows,’ and when I told them the reason of the omission they were astonished at my rigid observance of the Buddha’s teachings. The next day, when I called upon the ‘great teacher’ at the appointed hour, I found him playing with a boy who was behaving toward him in a very familiar way, as if he were his son. I could not think that such a man, who was a genuine priest, was married, and yet I very much suspected some such relation—a suspicion which was afterwards confirmed during my sojourn at Lhasa.

At first I had intended to stay and study at the temple for at least two weeks, but after this discovery I was now loath to remain with such a degenerate priest. I left the town the next day, and as I was now separated from my companions I had to carry my effects myself. For a distance of two and a half miles the road gradually ascended along a mountain rivulet in a south-easterly direction and then, turning eastwards, became a steep descent of five miles. Proceeding ten miles further in a south-easterly direction and along the stream I found two dwellings, in one of which I lodged for the night. The next day I again ascended a steep slope, two and a half miles long, and climbed down another twice that length. As the day was snowy and my baggage got wet, I was obliged to take lodgings at the first house I could find. The next day, November 30th, I fortunately met seven or eight men who seemed to be transport agents, and were driving forty or fifty asses, and I was glad to place my things in their charge. Thus freed from encumbrances, I, with the party, descended the Tharu river for five miles. It then turned to the south-east, and after proceeding fifteen miles further along the riverside, we found a village where we stopped.

The drivers, however, encamped in a neighboring meadow, where they unburdened their animals and surrounded themselves on all sides except one with the goods thus unloaded. As was customary with them, the men improvised a kind of fire-place. On the first of December we proceeded along the river for about ten miles and then left it; again for ten miles, we ascended the eastern mountain called Rangla with its perpendicular peaks of red rock. We lodged under the rock and on the following day we ascended Rangla for five miles and marched more than another five miles on the mountainous plains; we reached a big monastery named Kang-chen and passed that night in a field south of the monastery. At first, when[246] I saw my drivers recklessly making their way through the cultivated fields, I expressed my fear to them that we might be caught by the farmers. “No,” was their reply, “you need not bother yourself on that score.” They explained to me that these fields were fallow ones, “which were enjoying their holidays” for this year, so that any person might choose them as roads. It was a custom in this locality to raise the wheat-crop every other year, leaving the fields unemployed for the intervening year—a custom which did not obtain in Lhasa and the neighborhood. Moreover, I was told, it was winter, when the privilege held good in any year, and no one need entertain any fear of intruding. At night I preached to my drivers, and the next day we set out together, taking an easterly direction. We proceeded seven and a half miles, when we found rising among the mountains a magnificent temple, still under construction. On making enquiries I learned that the work had been undertaken by the Tibetan Government, which is acting under the advice of a soothsayer.

The latter had, I was told, declared that there exists a spring just beneath the site of the building, that it is the mouth of a monstrous dragon, and that unless a temple be erected over it, it will ultimately burst out and deluge the whole country. Unfortunately this idea is supported by a book of prophecies brought from China, which is apparently the work of some priest with hidden motives. I read the book and found it to be full of awe-inspiring predictions. It states, for instance, that as wickedness obtains on the earth, a flood of water will be brought upon it and everything on the face of it destroyed; that fatal calamities, such as a great famine or war, will break out as a prelude to such a flood. In addition, it is stated that the book had been sent from heaven, and that therefore any one who is[247] so careless as to doubt its truth will be punished with immediate death. I declared that these prophecies were all false, but of course nothing extraordinary happened to me. The book may be well meant, but it is full of nonsensical sayings. But Tibetans believe in it so firmly that translated copies are being circulated all over the country. It is most surprising that such superstitions should have led the Government to begin a foolish undertaking at a great cost. But indeed, oracle-mongers are held in high esteem, not only by the Government but also by the general mass of the people, who consult them whenever they are at fault.

Passing under the above-mentioned temple we proceeded further, and before we had gone far, we found some five vultures (known among the natives by the name of Cha-goppo) perched on a hill-side. On questioning my companions, I was told that there exists in Tibet a very curious and unpleasant custom of offering the corpses of dead men to vultures as a part of the funeral ceremony; that as in this locality the people do not bring enough carrion to these birds, the latter are always hungry; and that therefore they are granted an allowance of meat from the kitchen of a temple called the Tashi Lhunpo. How they are fed on human flesh at a funeral ceremony I shall relate later in my account of Lhasa.

After some further journeying we arrived at an “abstinence house” (Nyun ne Lhakhang in Tibetan), in the neighborhood of which there stood a temple called the Nartang. Wanting to make some enquiries, I decided to stay at this house, so that I parted company with my carriers, who proceeded towards Shigatze. This house is used both by priests and laymen for observing the ‘Eight rules of abstinence’ enjoined by the Buddha, or other forms of religious self-denial, such as silence or abstinence from meat. Abstinence from flesh is considered an[248] austerity by Tibetan priests, because they eat meat, contrary to the ordinary usages of Buddhist monks.

The next day I visited the Nartang Temple, where I inspected the most valuable of its treasures, which are immense heaps of wooden printing-blocks, comprising the collection of all the Buddhist writings in Tibet, divided into two departments—Buddha’s own preachings and the works of the saints. In addition, they have an equally large number of printing-blocks for the commentaries prepared by the native Lamas. These blocks are kept in two large buildings, one of which measures about 180 feet by sixty. This temple is the sole publisher of the ‘collection of all the Buddhist writings,’ the three hundred priests who live there being printers. I called upon the head priest of the temple, who had been specially sent from the Tashi Lhunpo Temple, and found him very clever in conversation. The interview was at once very instructive and agreeable to me, for the priest not only gave me valuable information on Buddhism but also accorded me cordial treatment.

THE sacred books embodying the "Word" of Buddha are regarded by the Lamas, in common with all other Buddhists, as forming the second member of the Trinity — "The Three precious Ones" — in whom the pious Buddhist daily takes his "refuge."

The books themselves receive divine honours. They are held materially sacred, placed in high places, and worshipped with incense, lamps, etc.;1 and even fragments of books or manuscripts bearing holy words are treasured with the utmost reverence. It is deemed the grossest profanity for anyone to throw even a fragment of holy writ upon the ground or to tread upon it, and in this way the Tibetans, like the Chinese, not infrequently express their contempt for Christianity by utilizing, as soles for their shoes, the bundles of tracts which our missionaries supply to them.

But Buddha, like "the Light of the World," and unlike Moses and Muhammad, wrote nothing himself; nor does it appear that his words were even reduced to writing until about 400 years or more after his death,2 so it is unlikely that most of his sayings have preserved their original form, wholly unaltered, in the process of handing them down orally during several centuries.

The Lamaist scriptures are faithful translations3 from the Sanskrit texts,4 and a few also from the Chinese, made mostly in the eighth and ninth, and the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries A.D.; and a very few small volumes, those first translated into Tibetan, date to the epoch of Thon-mi Sambhota, about 645 A.D.

None of these Tibetan translations, however, seem to have been printed until comparatively recent times, though the exact date of the introduction of printing into Tibet is as yet unknown.

The Tibetan so-called "books" are, strictly speaking, only xylographs, being printed from rudely carved wooden blocks. Movable type is unknown, and a large proportion of the books are still written in manuscript. The great canon, the Kah-gyur, was, it seems, only printed for the first time, at least in its collected form, about two hundred years ago.

The paper, which is remarkably tough, is made from the inner bark of a shrub,5 and comes mostly from Nepal and other parts of the sub-Himalayas, and the Chinese border-lands. The smaller abstracts from the scriptures, used by the more wealthy devotees, are sometimes written on ornate cardboard, consisting of several sheets of paper pasted together, and varnished over with a black pigment, upon which the letters are written in silver or gold; and occasionally they are illuminated like missals.

Books now abound in Tibet, and nearly all are religious. The literature, however, is for the most part a dreary wilderness of words and antiquated rubbish, but the Lamas conceitedly believe that all knowledge is locked up in their musty classics, outside which nothing is worthy of serious notice.

The Lamaist scriptures consist of two great collections, the canon and the commentaries, commonly called the "Kang-gyur, or properly the Kah-gyur,6 and Tan-gyur."7

The great code, the Kah-gyur, or "The Translated Commandment," is so called on account of its text having been translated from the ancient Indian language,8 and in a few cases from the Chinese. The translators were learned Indian and Kashimri Pandits and a few Chinese monks, assisted by Tibetan scholars.9

The code extends to one hundred or one hundred and eight volumes of about one thousand pages each, comprising one thousand and eighty-three distinct works. The bulk of this colossal bible may be imagined from the fact that each of its hundred or more volumes weighs about ten pounds, and forms a package measuring about twenty-six inches long by eight inches broad and about eight inches deep. Thus the code requires about a dozen yaks for its transport; and the carved wooden blocks from which this bible is printed require, for their storage, rows of houses like a good-sized village.

The Kah-gyur is printed, I am informed, only at two places in Tibet: the older edition at Narthang,10 about six miles from Tashi-lhunpo, the capital of western Tibet and headquarters of the Grand Panch'en-Lama. It fills one hundred volumes of about one thousand pages each. The later edition is printed at Der-ge11 in eastern Tibet (Kham) and contains the same matter distributed in volumes to reach the mystic number of one hundred and eight. In Bhotan an edition is printed at Punakha;12 and I have heard of a Kumbum (Mongolian) edition, and of one printed at Pekin. The ordinary price at Narthang is about eight rupees per volume without the wooden boards. Most of the large monasteries even in Sikhim possess a full set of this code. The Pekin edition published by command of the emperor Khian-Lung, says Koppen, sold for £600; and a copy was bartered for 7,000 oxen by the Buriats, and the same tribe paid 1,200 silver roubles for a complete copy of this bible and its commentaries.13 [And a copy also of this edition seems to be in the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, obtained about 1830 by Baron Schilling de Canstadt, together with about 2,000 Mongolian and Tibetan treatises. — Bulletin Historico-philologique del 'Academie de
St. Peterbourg, tom, iv., 1848, pp. 321-329.] The Kah-gyur was translated into Mongolian about 1310 A.D. by Saskya Lama Ch'os-Kyi 'Od-zer under the Saskya Pandita, who, assisted by a staff of twenty-nine learned Tibetan, Ugrian, Chinese and Sanskrit scholars, had previously revised the Tibetan canon by collating it with Chinese and Sanskrit texts, under the patronage of the emperor Kublai Khan.

The contents of the Kah-gyur and Tan-gyur were briefly analyzed by Csoma,14 whose valuable summary, translated and indexed by Feer,15 and supplemented in part by Schiefner and Rockhill, forms the basis of the following sketch. Hodgson's copy of the Kah-gyur, on which Csoma worked at Calcutta, contained one hundred volumes, and appears to have been printed from the wooden types prepared in 1731, and which seem to be still in use at Narthang.

-- The Buddhism of Tibet, or Lamaism With Its Mystic Cults, Symbolism and Mythology, and in its Relation to Indian Buddhism, by Luarence Austine Waddell, M.B., F.L.S., F.R.G.S.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:41 am

CHAPTER XLI. Shigatze.


The next day, December 5th, I proceeded for about eight miles across a plain in a south-easterly direction, when the gold-colored roof of a palatial building, with many white-painted dormitories for priests close by, presented itself before my view. In addition, temple-like buildings in red paint were seen rising amidst these structures, making in all a grand and beautiful spectacle. The town before me was Shigatze, the second capital of Tibet, and the palatial building was the Tashi Lhunpo Temple. The name means ‘a glorious mass’ or ‘Mount Sumeru,’ a legendary mountain mentioned in Buḍḍhist Scriptures. The monastery owes its name to its founder, Gendun Tub, who thought that the mountain at the rear of the temple resembled Sumeru.[250] There were altogether three thousand three hundred priests in the temple, but sometimes the number increases to over five thousand; and though it is but the second temple in the country it maintains the same dignity as the papal see. The secular part of the city lay beyond the temple and consisted of some three thousand five hundred dwellings. The number of the inhabitants was stated by the natives to be over thirty thousand, but this calculation cannot be much trusted, as the science of statistics is utterly unknown in Tibet. I visited the temple, where I asked for the dormitory called Peetuk Khamtsan, which is allotted to the Lamaist monks from the north-eastern plateau, since I had feigned myself to be one of these. At length I found it and settled myself in it, for I intended to stay there for some time and to pick up any knowledge I could from those with whom I might come into contact.

The Lama Superior of this temple is regarded as the second Grand Lama of Tibet, for, though he does not possess any political influence, yet with regard to the rank bestowed by the Chinese Emperor he is superior even to the Dalai Lama himself. Sometimes a kind of regency under this ‘second Grand Lama’ takes place during the interval between the Dalai Lama’s death and the enthronement of what in Tibet is believed to be his re-incarnated self.

This second Grand Lama is commonly called Panchen Rinpoche
, but his real title is Kyab-kon Chen-bo, meaning ‘Great Protector,’ while his name is Lobsang Choe-ki Nima, the ‘noble-minded religious sun’. I was told he was eighteen years old, having been born in the year of “sheep,” and was believed to be an incarnation of Amida-nyorai. At the time of my visit he was away at a distant palace, so that I could not see him. During my stay in the town my only business was to visit various[251] Lamas and scholars, with whom I discussed the teachings of Buḍḍha.

One day I called upon the tutor of the second Grand Lama, Tsan Chenba, a venerable priest, seventy-four years of age, who was very kind to me. As he was reputed to be the highest authority on Tibetan grammar and rhetoric among the three thousand priests in the temple, I asked him several grammatical questions, and in doing so I took care to select such questions as were familiar to me, for I wanted to know in what way my host would try to explain them. I was, however, disappointed, as he confessed that he could give no answer and said that he could only refer me to a learned physician living at Engon on the road to Lhasa, who, he was inclined to believe, could give me a satisfactory answer. I was, therefore, glad to take leave of him. En passant it may be stated that five branches of science—phonetics, medicine, logic, engineering and religious science and philosophy—were centuries ago introduced into Tibet from India, but now-a-days very few—I will almost say no—Tibetans are proficient in them, or even in one of them. Under present circumstances, those who take to the study of grammar belong to very limited classes, the majority of them consisting of the men in the Government service who learn just the elementary rules of grammar, in order to be able to prepare official documents. It is not wonderful therefore that there should be scholars who, in spite of their zeal in the investigation and exposition of Buḍḍha’s doctrines, are absolute strangers to history and other branches of science.

After a stay of several days at the temple, I was one day thinking of leaving the town, when I was informed that the Grand Lama was expected home presently, so I went out to witness his procession. It must be noted that owing to the absence of roads in Tibet the[252] procession passed through the more beaten parts of the country, which served as roads. On both sides of the route there stood cylindrical posts upon which incense was burnt by the waiting crowds, both sacerdotal and secular, most of whom prostrated themselves on the advent of the cortège. The second Grand Lama was borne in a palanquin decorated with gold brocades and gorgeous kinds of silk, and was accompanied by about three hundred mounted attendants who, instead of being armed, carried Buḍḍhist utensils. The procession was heralded by the native band, using some kind of wind instruments and drums. The spectacle was so splendid that I congratulated myself on my good fortune in having witnessed it.

During that night, in compliance with the request of the priests in my dormitory, I delivered a sermon on the ten Buḍḍhist virtues, which seemed to please them greatly. They confessed to me that, priests as they were, they found no interest in the theoretical and dry expositions of Buḍḍha’s teachings to which they had been used to listen, but that my delivery was so easy and pleasing that it aroused in them a real zest for Buḍḍhism. This fact is a sad commentary on the ignorance of the average Tibetan priests.

I learned subsequently, however, that the priests in this temple were very rigid in their conduct, except in the habit of drinking. With regard to this latter an amusing story is told. One day the Dalai Lama of Lhasa met with the Grand Lama of the Tashi Lhunpo monastery. In the course of conversation, the former said he was very sorry that his priests were addicted to the use of tobacco. Panchen Rinpoche sympathised, but stated that he was no less sorry that his own priests were exceedingly partial to alcoholic drinks. They then discussed which of the two luxuries was the more sinful, and also whether or not some effective measures could be taken to prevent these[253] vicious habits. But even their great influence could do nothing, and the vicious practices were open secrets.
A curious rule was however enacted in order to prevent the habit of drinking. Every priest returning from the street was bound to present himself before the priestly guard at the gate of the temple, who examined his breath, any disclosure of his drunkenness being followed by an immediate punishment. Some impudent priests often attempted to conceal their inebriation by eating a good deal of garlic, the strong smell of which impregnated their breath and thus might prevent detection.

Leaving the temple at ten on the morning of December 15th, I proceeded about two miles across the city of Shigatze, when I reached the Tsanchu river. The great bridge erected over it is called the Samba Shar, which means eastern bridge. It measures about three hundred and sixty yards in length and eight yards in breadth. It is unlike our own bridges, for it consists of slabs of stones covered with earth, which are in turn placed upon rows of long wooden boards spanning stone structures erected in the water at equal distances of about ten yards. The bridge has parapets made of stone. Passing over the bridge, I proceeded four miles to the north, till I found myself on the bank of the Brahmapuṭra. The road now turned to the east along that river, and a further journey of about twelve miles brought me to a village called Pe, where I lodged at a poor farmer’s. There I noticed with curiosity that turf instead of the usual yak-dung was heaped besides the fire-place. I was told that in that locality the dried roots of grasses were used as fuel; hence the heaps of turf.

I also found a boy of about twelve years old sitting beside the fire-place and learning to write. He had a bamboo stick for his pen, and was writing with it upon white powder sprinkled over a small piece of wood.[254] Every now and then he presented his work to his father and had its ill-done portions corrected by him, this process being repeated over and over again. I wondered at the care with which the child was taught to practise penmanship, in spite of the poor condition of the family, but I soon learned the secret. Agriculture was the sole industry in this locality, and if the tenant did not know how to write and count, he would possibly be imposed upon by his landlord in the payment of his rent. As to the art of counting, it was taught in a very primitive way, stones, sticks or rosaries being used for the purpose. With respect to writing and counting the poorer classes of this locality were far above those in Lhasa, who were totally ignorant.

At night I preached to the members of the family, and the next day I proceeded about five miles along the river already mentioned. The road, which sloped eastward, now became very narrow, with the river on the left and a very steep and rugged mountain on the right. I struggled on for about four miles further, and then came out upon a wide space. Looking to the right, I saw two large buildings standing on the summit of a mountain. These buildings constitute the Engon temple where, as the old priest of the Tashi Lhunpo temple had kindly informed me, lives the celebrated grammarian. I climbed the mountain, and reached the temple after an arduous ascent of more than two miles. There I learned that the larger of the two edifices accommodates two hundred and thirty male priests, while the other, situated a little lower, is a nunnery where live seventy-two nuns. The history of this temple is very interesting, but I need not dwell on it here in detail. I stayed at the temple for the night, and the next day I had an interview with its principal priest. The latter, however, talked only something of Buḍḍhism, being ignorant of grammar and rhetoric, but[255] was kind enough to refer me to the physician, Amdo Ka-sang, of whom the old priest of the Tashi Lhunpo had such a high opinion.

I then called upon this physician and grammarian, to whom I gave some presents in token of my respect. After the usual greetings had been exchanged, the host questioned me how long I had been studying the Tibetan language. “Three years,” I replied. My host declared that the study of grammar and rhetoric greatly depended upon the method used and that, if the method were a poor one, the period of three years would prove too short to accomplish anything. He then asked me a few questions on grammar, which, as they were very simple, I answered quickly. I asked him to put to me some more difficult questions on rhetoric, but, to my great disappointment, he confessed that he had no knowledge of rhetoric. I next asked him which of the Tibetan grammarians he thought the best, to which question he answered that he preferred Ngul-chu Lama’s grammar (Ngul-chu being the name of a temple) which, in reality, is very imperfect. I almost doubted his sincerity, so that I again asked him why he did not follow the views taken by Situ Lama, who is well-known as the highest authority on Tibetan grammar. To my great surprise, my host had never read Situ’s works, though he had heard something of the grammarian. I then turned my questions to the number of vowels in the Tibetan alphabet, about which there are two different opinions among grammarians. This question, simple as it may appear, has been the subject of much discussion, so that the study of the Tibetan language must be started with this theme. My question on this subject seemed to embarrass my host who, after some pondering, said that there were sixteen vowels in the Tibetan alphabet, and began to enumerate them. Curiously enough, all the vowels mentioned by him were those of the Samskṛt[256] alphabet, so I asked him what he thought of the opinion that the number of the Tibetan vowels was five.

The doctor seemed abashed. He apologised for his mistake in having mentioned the Samskṛṭ vowels, and admitted that the Tibetan vowels numbered only five. (This five-vowel opinion is erroneous, though several western scholars maintain it in their works. It must be noted that the Tibetan characters were invented by Thumi Sambhota, who tells us in his work that there were only four vowels in his language.) In short, the interview proved a disappointment. The doctor possessed very limited knowledge, being a great grammarian and rhetorician only in the eyes of ignorant native priests. I returned to my room, where I was asked by a priest on what subject I had talked with the ‘learned’ doctor. When I answered him that I had discussed some grammatical questions with the doctor, the priest said with an air of importance that the doctor was the highest authority on grammar and rhetoric throughout the province of Tsan, that one or two interviews with him would be insufficient to secure any benefit, and that I should stay with him for at least two or three years if I really wished to study grammar. In addition, the priest confessed that, long as he had had the fortune to listen to the doctor’s lectures, he was still a total stranger to grammar. I was so much tickled by these remarks that I burst out laughing, which seemed somewhat to embarrass the priest.

The next day, December 18th, I proceeded about five miles over an undulating country, going in a south-easterly direction, when I again reached the Brahmapuṭra river. Crossing a vast plain which stretched along the river, I made my way eastward, and was within some two miles and a half of the Pombo Ri-o-che, a temple belonging to an older sect of Lamaism, and situated upon a towering peak, when I was unexpectedly called and stopped by someone.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:42 am

CHAPTER XLII. A Supposed Miracle.

Turning about to see what it could be, I caught sight of two stout fellows armed with Tibetan swords. On their approach, I asked them what they wanted. Abruptly picking up a stone, the younger of them threatened me and said: “What do you mean?”

“Run off,” he menaced, “or you shall die.”

Then I took my seat on a stone by the roadside and gave myself up for lost. The men strode toward me, and violently seized my stick.

“Tell us what you have and where you come from,” they said.

“I am a pilgrim,” I answered, “and I come from Tise.”

“You have money?”

“I have a little,” I said, “not worth taking, as I was robbed at Jangthang.”

“What have you on your back?”

“Some food and the Scriptures.”

“Unpack it and let us see; you may have much money there.”

“No, the money is in my pocket,” I said “and not in the baggage. Being a priest, I never tell a lie. You may have either the money or the baggage, if you wish.”

I was just going to give them money when three horsemen appeared riding towards us, and at sight of them the highwaymen took to their heels, leaving the stick and everything else. Thus I was saved.

“Who are they?” asked the horsemen, and on my answering that they had demanded of me my money and baggage, they expressed their disgust.

“Go to yonder temple,” they added after a little pause, “and you will find a village. Be quick and we will see you safe there.”

I thanked them and walked on toward the village, and the horsemen went away westward after a little while. Instead of stopping there for the night, I proceeded eastwards as far as Nya-mo-Hotta, a little village about seven miles off, where I lodged. The following day I took lunch at Teshok, and stopped at Tak-tsu-kha in the evening. On December 20th at dawn, I went south-east through the deep snow, it having snowed very hard the night before. While going along the river Brahmapuṭra, I saw some cranes walking in the snow, and was so delighted that I forgot that I was in so cold a climate.

Then I amused myself with composing Utas, of which the following is one:

With crystals of the snow, how white the sand
All spotted gleams upon the river banks!
The flocks of cranes to me appear to sing
The changeless glories of the Path of Truth
In their melodious joyful bursts of song:
On those bejewelled banks they tread in pride;
With gait majestic slow they strut about.

Amid such beautiful scenes I went down along the southern bank of the river, and after about eight miles’ walk I came to Kurum Namse, where I took lunch. I proceeded still further east along the same stream for about five miles, and found the river running north-east, while my road lay south-east into the mountain. I went up the hill about four miles, and stopped at Shab-Tontub.

On the following morning I went eastwards again along a clear stream, and after about four miles I could see from its banks a rocky mountain, at the foot of which there was a temple called Cham Chen Gompa (meaning ‘the monastery of the great image of Charity’, i.e., the Boḍhisaṭṭva of that name), where there was an image of[259] the Buḍḍha Maiṭreya about thirty-five feet high. Boḍhisaṭṭva Maiṭreya (which name means ‘Charity’) is honored as next to Buḍḍha in rank, but in Tibet he is worshipped as a Buḍḍha who will hereafter appear again on earth. I worshipped at this temple, and then at the shrine of the divinities, and of Shākyamuni Buḍḍha beside the temple. Then I entered a lamasery. This temple, which is the largest between Lhasa and Shigatze, has two hundred dormitories, with three hundred priests. The chief priest of the house where I stopped was in great distress on account of some bad dreams which he had had on several successive nights. He had dreamed that he was dying, and this troubled him much, for he had immense wealth. So he asked me to read the Scriptures to him, so that he might be free from the supposed evil. I knew of no gospel specially suitable for such purposes, but I thought that the reading of the Buḍḍhist canon might do him good, so I told him that I would do as he wished, and from the following day began reading The Aphorisms of the White Lotus of the Wonderful Law and other Scriptures in Tibetan.

It was on the 28th of December, as I remember, that a priest was going to Kātmāndu in Nepāl, and I seized the occasion to send a letter home by him, addressed to my bosom friend Tokujuro Hige. I paid him a comparatively large sum of money and asked him to send it registered from the post office of Nepāl. The man was reputed so honest that he had never been known to tell a lie, but strangely enough the letter failed to reach its address, as I have since discovered.

During the afternoon of the 31st I was sped on my way by the head priest, who lent me a horse. I got on the horse, loaded it with my baggage, and going east for about three miles, came to Ta-mi-la, where I was asked to read the Scriptures. While riding to the village, I lifted up my[260] thanks to Buḍḍha for the grace by which I had been saved through so many calamities and afflictions during the year, it being the last day of the 33rd year of Meiji according to the Japanese mode of reckoning (A.D. 1900). I did not know what adversities were yet in store for me, but I could not but think that I might be kept safe to do all I could for the cause of Buḍḍhism.

The New Year’s Day dawned, but I met with nothing special to mark the day, as the Tibetans use the old calendar. Still I got up early at three o’clock in the morning, and turning east, as I had done every New Year’s Day, I began the New Year’s reading of the Scriptures. For, as Buḍḍhism teaches us, it is our duty to pray for the health of the sovereign, and every Buḍḍhist reads the Scriptures on New Year’s Day, in however remote a place he may happen to be, and prays for the welfare of the Imperial Family. I read the Scriptures at the village till the 5th, and on the following day I proceeded seven miles to Omi, where I stopped for the night. In a temple of this village there was an image called in Tibetan Sung Chung Dolma (the Mother of Salvation who utters a command) which was about three feet high, and so beautiful that it seemed as if it might even speak. The Tibetans told me that the image at one time actually spoke. I read the Scriptures there for two days, and received many gifts. I had met the highwaymen, and had been robbed of my money, but money was constantly given to me, and my reading the Scriptures earned me so many gifts, that I had now laid by a considerable sum of money, and I was living on the food given to me by others.

On the 12th of January, at 5 o’clock in the morning, I set out on my journey with a coolie, who carried my baggage. We went on south-east along the bank of a stream flowing through the mountains. Here we found the snow turned into ice, and so slippery was the ground that we had to take great[261] care, lest we should fall. Going on for about twelve miles, we found ourselves at Choe Ten, where there were many hot springs, three of them warm enough to bathe in. I do not know for what disease they might be really efficacious, though they seemed to me to be good for rheumatism. I saw several places in the stream where steaming springs could be seen boiling up. We took our lunch and again went on eastward for about nine miles, till we came in sight of a temple called Mani Lha-khang, in a willow plantation along the river. This temple was so called, because it enshrined a large bronze cylinder holding many pieces of paper each bearing the spell mani, consisting of the following six sounds ‘Om-ma-ni-pad-me-hum’ and meaning “all will be as we will.” The tube was beautifully wrapped in copper foil, and ornamented with gold and silver. It had an iron axle through it and was so formed that it would revolve from left to right. This temple is among the most famous in Tibet. The founder of the temple was Je Tsong-kha-pa, who started a new sect. His memory is held in great esteem in the country, and especially in this temple, mostly because he was the inventor of the “prayer-cylinder”.

I stopped at this temple, the keeper of which was very rude; without any scruple he asked me to read his face for him, for he said I looked out of the common. I had never studied physiognomy, but I thought that I might thus teach a lesson to the Tibetans, who are very superstitious. So I told him that I was very sorry for him, for he seemed to be a man who, though often given money and other things, would sustain much loss through other men, and for whom the future would have nothing but debt. Singularly enough, this exactly told his past life, and he was so surprised at my words, that he told all about me to his richest neighbor, called Dorje Gyalpo (Prince Diamond). That very evening a fine lady, who[262] I was told was the wife of the rich man, came to me with a child, and asked me to tell its fortune. This troubled me not a little. But when I saw the sickly and feeble state of the child I could easily guess what would happen, so I ventured to tell her that I was very sorry, for the child seemed likely not to live long, and I also told her about the philosophy of retribution. She asked me if there was no way of saving its life. I thought how glad I should be if I could have an opportunity of reading the ‘complete Text,’ as I knew that I should have very little chance of doing so after reaching Lhasa. I said therefore that a long reading of the Scriptures might do some good. She went home early that evening.

Very strange indeed! the child fell so ill the following morning that the whole family was struck with my chance prediction, and I was asked to come to the house to read the Scriptures, even though it might take several days to do so. I said I would, but as they had no copy of the ‘complete Scriptures’ I asked for a man to be sent to Rong Langba, a little further up the hill, to borrow a copy. In the meanwhile I sat in the usual religious meditation, when suddenly my ears caught the sound of weeping and crying women in the kitchen. What could all that mean? Something serious must have happened in the house. Still I kept quiet, as it was none of my business to go and see. Soon, however, the mistress of the house came to tell me that the child had died as predicted, and she asked me to save it. I was also surprised to learn how my words had come true, and hurried into the room, only to find the child quite senseless and cold.

I felt the child’s pulse, which was beating faintly, though his body was not warm and his neck was nearly stiff. I thought the disease might be congestion of the brain, as I had read a few books on medicine. So I called for some cold water, and put on to his head a piece of wet[263] cloth, while, at the same time, I rubbed his neck and head vigorously for twenty minutes. It was only a short faint, and the child began to come to his senses. You can easily imagine how glad was his grandmother, who was almost beside herself with joy to see restored to life the child whom they had supposed to be dead. I told her to keep quiet and to continue rubbing till the child was perfectly well. This won for me no small respect from all present, and I was asked to stay for a long time to read the Scriptures. I, too, was glad to stay there over two months during the cold season, enjoying my reading. Besides reading the Scriptures, I often took walks among the hills and valleys and on these occasions many children, with the one I had saved, followed me in my walks quite as if they were my own children.
I loved the children so much, or rather was so loved by them, that my only business besides my reading was to take them for walks.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:43 am

CHAPTER XLIII. Manners and Customs.

The Tibetans are very foul in their habits, some of which I may mention here. In the house in which I stayed there were some twenty servants, and they brought me a cup of tea every morning. They never washed the cup which I used, but brought tea in it every day, and they would say that it was quite clean, for I had used it only the night before, though it was as dirty as it could be. They think cups are unclean if they have been used by their inferiors, but they never wash those used by themselves or their equals, for these are clean in their eyes, though it is disgusting even to look at them. If I asked a servant to wash my cup, it was wiped with his sleeve, which might be quite wet and dirty from being used as a handkerchief. Then he said it was clean, and poured tea into it. Just think of it! It is impossible to drink out of such a cup, but still one must do so, for it would only arouse their suspicions to be too strict about such matters. It seems to be nothing compared with his other unclean habits that the Tibetan does not wash his plates and dishes. He does not even wash or wipe himself after the calls of nature, but behaves like the lower animals in this respect. To this there is no single exception, from the high priest down to the shepherd; every one does the same. I was, therefore, much laughed at and suspected when I followed the Japanese custom in this particular, and even the children would laugh at me. I was much troubled at this; still I could not do otherwise. This was a still greater trouble in the tents, for in Jangthang I used to have four or five dogs beside me whenever I retired for private purposes. You can well[265] imagine how terrified I was at first, though I soon got accustomed to them. And no sooner had I gone away than the dogs devoured the excrement. For this reason there is little or no filth lying about in Jangthang.

Nor are these the Tibetan’s only unclean habits. He never washes his body; many have never been washed since their birth. One would scarcely believe that they boast in the country, if not in towns or cities, of never having been washed. It calls forth laughter from others to wash even the hands and face, and so the only clean part about them are the palms of the hands and eyes, all other parts being jet-black. The country gentlemen and the priests, however, have partially cleaned faces, mouths and hands, though the other parts of their bodies are just as black as can be. They are quite as black on their necks and backs as the African negroes. Why then are their hands so white? It is because they make dough with their own hands with flour in a bowl, and the dirt of their hands is mixed with the dough. So Tibetan dishes are made of dirt and flour, and the Tibetans eat with their teeth black with sordes. It is a sickening sight! Why do they not wash their bodies? Because they have a superstitious belief that it wipes off happiness to wash the body. This belief is not quite so prevalent among the inhabitants of Central Tibet as among those of the remote provinces north of the Himālayas.

Medical Definition of sordes: the crusts that collect on the teeth and lips in debilitating diseases with protracted low fever. -- Merriam Webster Dictionary

It is necessary at betrothal to show not only the countenance of the girl, but also to show how black she is with filth. If she is all black except her eyes, and her dress is bright with dirt and butter, she is regarded as blessed. If she has a white face and clean hands she will be less fortunate, for she is said to have washed away her luck. Girls are equally superstitious about this, for they too attach much importance in courting to the black[267]ness of the boys. I know it is difficult to credit what I have just stated; even I myself could not believe it until I had visited several places and seen Tibetan habits for myself. People below the middle class have no change of clothes, but generally dress themselves in torn and filthy rags. They blow their noses into their clothes in the presence of others. Their dress is often as hard as hide with dried dirt. It is as it were a concrete of butter, filth and mucus. But people above the middle class are a little less untidy. The priesthood especially are instructed to wash their hands and faces and keep their clothes clean. They are somewhat cleaner, therefore, but only in comparison with their people. It was often very difficult for me to accept invitations to dinner and tea amid these foul habits. While at Tsarang I tried very hard to get accustomed to them, but it is difficult to overcome physical revolt.

Still, amid these disagreeable things, the natural beauty of the country often much comforted me. Once before the Tibetan New Year I was reading as usual at my desk, while the people were busy preparing for the New Year. I looked out of my window to see the snow. Oh the splendor of the sight! You can little imagine how much I was delighted when a crane appeared, strolling along in the snow, and filling me with sentimental and poetical reminiscences of my native land. In this wise I was comforted, amid the unpleasant habits of the people, by the beautiful charms of nature, as well as by some interesting things which I noticed among the ceremonies of the New Year.

The Tibetans use neither the Indian calendar, nor the Chinese, but the Turkistan, which resembles the Chinese in that it has one leap year in every four, but it is always one year behind the latter. We find many strange things in its way of counting days. There are often given, say, two seventh days, or we sometimes find the eleventh day[268] after the ninth but without the tenth. I could not quite make out what all these meant. Upon inquiring from an astrologer, I was told that it was sometimes necessary to add one day, or to leave one out, because they were lucky or unlucky, and a lucky day was duplicated, while an unlucky one must be omitted. In this convenient way is constructed the calendar as generally used in Tibet, though some disagreements are found between the calendars used in different parts of the country, as for instance in fixing the New Year or other great days. But this is a matter that should cause little wonder. The Tibetan calendar is computed by four officials appointed by the Government, who count days with black and white stones or shells. When their calendars differ, the best ones are chosen, and an oracle is consulted to decide which is the proper one to be adopted. The New Year’s ceremony is generally held on the day given in the Government calendar, but it is very rarely that the New Year’s Day of the Tibetan calendar falls on the same day as that of the Chinese, there being generally a difference of one, two, or even three days between them.

On New Year’s morning a piece of fire-colored silk, or handkerchiefs sewn together in the shape of a flag, is put over a heap of baked flour, on which are strewn some dried grapes, dried peaches and small black persimmons. The head of the house first picks up some of the fruits with his right hand, tosses them up three times, and eats them. Then his wife, guests and servants follow his example one after another. Next comes Tibetan tea, with fried cakes of wheat flour for each. These are brought in on a tray, something in the shape of a copper plate, gilded and white at the centre. They drink the tea and eat the cakes, but, unlike the Japanese, exchange no words of congratulation, and seem mostly to enjoy the eating. They take meat dried, raw, and boiled, but roast meat is regarded as unceremonial.

Tibet produces fresh-water fish, but the Tibetans do not usually eat it; they subsist chiefly on the meat of the yak, goat, and sheep, for they consider it sinful to kill fish. Pork is eaten, but only by the Tibetans who have dealings with the Chinese. After the morning ceremony, they again meet at about ten o’clock to drink tea or wine, and eat cake or fruits. At two in the afternoon they have dinner, at which they eat, if rich, a sort of macaroni mixed with eggs. The soup has mutton or something else dipped in it. At nine or ten o’clock in the evening they make a sort of meat gruel, commonly composed of wheat flour, wheat dumplings, meat, radishes, and cheese. But the course of dishes mentioned above is not settled, for they sometimes eat the gruel in the morning, though generally in the evening. The above are the dishes taken by the Tibetans of the higher circles.

The lowest class find it hard to get cheese and meat for their gruel, and put fat in their stead. Nor is it less difficult for them to get radishes. If they put wheat dumplings in the gruel, which they make on special occasions, it is reckoned among their best dishes; their usual gruel is made very thick with baked flour with some herbs and flowers put in it. In the winter, when they have no fresh herbs or flowers, they use what they have stored and laid by during the summer. The radish is however much grown in some parts of Tibet, where it is largely used. The Tibetan is fonder of baked flour than of rice, all classes generally living on the former. The Tibetans at Darjeeling live on baked flour from Tibet, for they fall ill if they live on rice. Baked flour can of course be had in India, but the Tibetan seems much superior to the Indian, for they send orders to Tibet for their native productions.

In this way I passed the festive New Year season, and, while reading my Scriptures amid these charming scenes,[270] learned much about Tibetan customs and homes, and found good material for my study.


A little white and black bird like a crow, called Kyaka in Tibetan, used to come to my window. It was a knowing bird, and could tell one man from another, and was very regular in its ways. One day while I was looking out of my window I saw one of a flock, seemingly their head, pecking another to death, as if angry with the latter because it had quarrelled with the other members of the flock. I was surprised and told my landlord about it, when he told me that birds were more regular than men, and related several stories which showed how strict the birds were. It is a common saying, he added, that one might deviate from human laws by the breadth of a log, before a hair-breadth’s deviation from bird’s law would be tolerated.—(Cha tim ta nga tsam shikna mi tim nya shing tsam shik go.)

Having stayed in this place a long time in order to read the Scriptures, I was determined to leave on the 14th March, as it was getting warmer. In the morning the family asked me to recite to them the Three Refuges, and the Five Commands or moral precepts of Buḍḍhism, which I did with pleasure. After dinner as I was leaving the house I was presented with some money and a priest’s robe, red in color and made of wool, which must have cost some thirty-five yen. I departed accompanied by a servant, who carried my luggage, for they told me they could not send me off on horseback, much though they desired to do so, for all their horses were away on trading journeys.

Up the Yak-Chu river I went for about ten miles eastwards, till I came to a post village called Che-sum, where I stopped for the night. I started at six o’clock the next morning, and went on along the river for another seven miles. It was a narrow pass, walled up between high[271] mountains; the snow lay deep in the valleys and the water of the streams was frozen. At the end of about seven miles I came to a little opening and, looking up to the top of a mountain on the left, I noticed a white building which looked neither like a temple nor like the dwelling of a priest. What could it be? Upon inquiring of my companion I was told it was a hail-proof temple.

I had never heard of such a temple, and was surprised at seeing one. When I heard the name for the first time I could not believe my own ears, but when I asked more particularly about it at Lhasa, I found that what had been told me was true. I will now relate the strange method which the Tibetans have for keeping off hailstones, which they dread exceedingly, especially in summer, for then the crops of wheat and barley, which they can reap only once in a year or two, may be entirely destroyed. So they naturally try to find some means to keep off the hailstones, and the method they have discovered is certainly curious enough.

The nation is so credulous in the matter of religion that they indiscriminately believe whatever is told to them by their religious teachers, the lamas. Thus for instance they believe that there are eight kinds of evil spirits which delight in afflicting people and send hail to hurt the crops. Some priests therefore maintain that they must fight against and destroy these evil demons in order to keep them off, and the old school profess that in order to combat these spirits effectually they must know when the demons are preparing the hail. During the winter when there is much snow, these spirits, according to the priests, gather themselves at a certain place, where they make large quantities of hail out of snow. They then store the hail somewhere in heaven, and go to rest, until in the summer when the crops are nearly ripe they throw down the hail from the air. Hence the Tibetans must make[272] sharp weapons to keep off the hail, and consequently, while the spirits are preparing their hail, the Tibetans hold a secret meeting in some ravine where they prepare ‘hail-proof shells,’ which are pieces of mud about the size of a sparrow’s egg. These are made by a priest, who works with a servant or two in some lonely ravine, where by some secret method he makes many shells, chanting words of incantation the while, whereby he lays a spell on each shell he makes. These pellets are afterwards used as missiles when hail falls in the summer, and are supposed to drive it back. None but priests of good family may devote themselves to this work. Every village has at least one priest called Ngak-pa (the chanters of incantations of the old school) and during the winter these Ngak-pas offer prayers, perform charms, or pray for blessings for others. But the Tibetans have a general belief that the Ngak-pas sometimes curse others. I was often told that such and such person had offended a Ngak-pa and was cursed to death.

Having spent the winter in this way, the Ngak-pas during the summer prepare to fight against the devils. Let me remark, in passing, that Tibet has not four seasons, as we have, but the year is divided into summer and winter. The four seasons are indeed mentioned in Tibetan books, but there are in reality only two.

The summer there is from about the 15th of March to the 15th of September and all the rest of the year is winter. As early as March or April the ploughing of the fields and sowing of wheat begins, and then the Ngak-pa proceeds to the Hail-Subduing-Temple, erected on the top of one of the high mountains. This kind of temple is always built on the most elevated place in the whole district, for the reason that the greatest advantage is thus obtained for ascertaining the direction from which the clouds containing hail issue forth. From the time that[273] the ears of the wheat begin to shoot, the priest continues to reside in the temple, though from time to time, it is said, he visits his own house, as he has not very much to do in the earlier part of his service. About June, however, when the wheat has grown larger, the protection of the crop from injury by hail becomes more urgent, so that the priest never leaves the temple, and his time is fully taken up with making offerings and sending up prayers for protection to various deities. The service is gone through three times each day and night, and numberless incantations are pronounced. What is more strange is that the great hail storms generally occur when the larger part of the crops are becoming ripe, and then it is the time for the priest on service to bend his whole energies to the work of preventing the attack of hail.

When it happens that big masses of clouds are gathering overhead, the Ngak-pa first assumes a solemn and stern aspect, drawing himself up on the brink of the precipice as firm as the rock itself, and then pronounces an enchantment with many flourishes of his rosary much in the same manner as our warrior of old did with his baton. In a wild attempt to drive away the hail clouds, he fights against the mountain, but it often happens that the overwhelming host comes gloomily upon him with thunders roaring and flashes of lightning that seem to shake the ground under him and rend the sky above, and the volleys of big hailstones follow, pouring down thick and fast, like arrows flying in the thick of battle. The priest then, all in a frenzy, dances in fight against the air, displaying a fury quite like a madman in a rage. With charms uttered at the top of his voice he cuts the air right and left, up and down, with his fist clenched and finger pointed. If in spite of all his efforts, the volleys of hail thicken and strike the fields beneath, the priest grows madder in his wrath,[275] quickly snatches handfuls of the bullets aforementioned which he carries about him, and throws them violently against the clouds as if to strike them. If all this avail nothing, he rends his garment to pieces, and throws the rags up in the air, so perfectly mad is he in his attempt to put a stop to the falling hailstones. When, as sometimes happens, the hail goes drifting away and leaves the place unharmed, the priest is puffed up with pride at the victory he has gained, and the people come to congratulate him with a great show of gratitude. But when, unluckily for him, the hail falls so heavily as to do much harm to the crops, his reverence has to be punished with a fine, apportioned to the amount of injury done by the hail, as provided by the law of the land.


To make up for the loss the Ngak-pa thus sustains, he is entitled at other times, when the year passes with little or no hail, to obtain an income under the name of “hail-prevention-tax;” a strange kind of impost, is it not? The “hail-prevention-tax” is levied in kind, rated at about two sho of wheat per tan of land, which is to be paid to the Ngak-pa. In a plentiful year this rate may be increased to two and a half sho. This is, indeed a heavy tax for the farmers in Tibet, for it is an extra, in addition to the regular amount which they have to pay to their Government.

There is another custom even more singular than that. The power of jurisdiction over the district resides in the person of the Ngak-pa, this being founded on the belief that the plentitude or deficiency of the crops each summer is dependent entirely on his power. The Ngak-pa being thus the administrator of justice receives a large salary in that capacity in addition to his income as preventer of hail. It might therefore be supposed that this class of priests is quite wealthy, but the Tibetan Ngak-pas are most of them singularly poor.[276] Their gains, coming from deception founded upon the superstition of the people, are soon dissipated, for what is ill-got is ill-spent, as the saying is. But the influence they exercise over the people is very strong. For instance, when a poor-looking Ngak-pa, attired like a beggar, meets with a fine gentleman on the road, the latter is sure to stick out his tongue and to bow down in profound respect. So these Ngak-pas gain much in peaceful days, though they are at the same time subject to a heavy penalty when the hail season sets in. Occasionally too, some of them are flogged on their naked bodies. The Tibetans are very strict in this respect, and no nobleman who has committed wrong is spared a flogging because of his caste. So far about the hail tax.

From this temple I went eastwards for about seven miles, when I came to a village called Yase. From the mountains east of this village flows a river called Yakchu, which, running north-west, empties itself into the Brahmapuṭra. Some European maps incorrectly give the Yakchu as having its source in lake Yamdo. Going on some two miles, I found one of the strangest lakes in the world. It is called lake Yamdo-Tso in Tibetan, but some foreign maps call it lake Palti. Palti however is not the name of the lake, but of the village on the western side. The lake is about one hundred and eighty miles in circumference, and has an island with a mountain range in its centre. Many lakes have small islands in them, but authoritative geographers state that none has so large a mountain as this. I must, however, here say that the land in the lake is connected with the main land at two points on the south, so that it is not actually an island. No words can describe the beautiful scenery here. The lofty peaks of the Himālayas stand high in a line from the south-east to the south-west of the lake, and add to its magnificence, and the tempest often lashes it into high waves, which dash roaring[277] upon the shore. Standing on a high rock by the shore, I marvelled to see the terrible scene of the angry lake waves, with the peaks of the Himālayan mountains amidst the clouds, looking like a superhuman being.

I proceeded for about four miles to the east, and then the road turned to the north-east. On the left stood a wall of high mountains, while on the right I could see the peaks of mountains in the lake. I went east and then north along a rather wide path by the lake for about six miles, till I came to Palti. There is a castle on a hill in this village, and very beautiful the lake looks when the castle throws its shadow on the water.

I lodged at a house at the foot of this castle. I had walked twenty-five miles that day, but the invigorating mountain scenery dispelled my fatigue, though I had been very tired. On the following day, March 16th, I started at four o’clock, in the snow and ice, and went north-east along the lake. There were mountains on the left and the lake on the right, as before. The path went pretty nearly north, but straight up and down in a zig-zag along the mountain. Often I slipped on the ice, or went deep into the snow, and I encountered much trouble, which was, however, almost nothing when compared with those which I had met in passing over the Himālayas.

At dawn I climbed up the mountain in deep snow, and looked down upon the surface of the lake. I could see among the shadows of the mountains the crescent moon beautifully reflected dimly and faintly on the water. The bright day was soon coming, the moon began already to lose its dim light, and the morning star twinkled on the surface of the water. Amid the charms of nature I lost all my fatigue and weariness, and I stood quite entranced. Soon the water-fowl were heard on the sands along the lake, and some mandarin ducks were amusing themselves in the water, while cranes were wildly flying about[278] with noisy cries. What a contrast it was with the scene of the day before! No pleasure on a journey can be greater than travelling in this way at dawn. I still went on for about twelve miles along the lake and came to a little stream in the mountains at about nine o’clock. It is here that travellers make tea, and bake their wheat for eating. The lake is full of water, but it is poisonous.

A strange story is told about how it turned poisonous. About twenty years ago, as the Tibetans tell, the famous Sarat Chandra Das, an Indian by birth, who passed for an Englishman, came from India and pronounced a spell upon the lake; the water at once turned as red as blood. A lama, they say, came along and turned the water back to its original color, but it still remained poisonous. One cannot believe anything that the Tibetans say, but the water seems to have really turned red. Sarat Chandra Das cannot have done that, but, unfortunately for him, it was just after his return from Tibet that the water thus changed. Sarat Chandra Das, as every one knows, is an Indian, but Tibetans, with few exceptions, think him to be an Englishman. Any way the water of the lake must have been poisonous for a long time, for the water is stagnant, there being no current, and there are divers poisonous elements near the lake.

There also seem to be places where I think there must be coal; I saw several kinds of strange ores and many kinds of herbs which I think may have dissolved in the water and have colored it. I have seen some foreign maps in which the water of this lake is made to flow into the Brahmapuṭra, which is quite false.

I found several persons taking lunch as we did amid this beautiful scenery. This being the way that runs between Lhasa and Shigatze there were travellers on it, among whom was a soldier from Nepāl. He was[279] one of the most humorous fellows I ever saw, and was very good company for me.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:44 am

CHAPTER XLIV. On to Lhasa.

The soldier, whose company proved not altogether unwelcome in a travel like mine, happened to be one of the Legation Guards of the Minister of Nepāl at Lhasa. His love of his mother had tempted him from his duty, but at Shigatze on his way to Nepāl his thought turned to his love of a woman at Lhasa and this was so much greater than his love for his mother that he suddenly changed his mind and determined to go back to Lhasa. Among other things I asked him how many soldiers the Nepāl Government kept stationed at Lhasa, and he answered that it was but a few years ago that his Government first sent a guard to the Tibetan capital. He told me that a great calamity befell the capital over ten years ago.

It seems that there were about three hundred merchants of the Palpo tribe of Nepāl at Lhasa. They are the most active and alert of the Nepālese tribes, with regard to trading, and follow Indian, not Tibetan Buḍḍhism. They engage in trade at Lhasa in woollen cloth, cotton, silk, coral, jewels, dry goods, rice, beans and corn.

Some thirteen years ago, a Palpo merchant at Lhasa searched a Lhasa woman on the charge that she had stolen a piece of coral from his shop. When the coral was not found he became so angry that, in spite of her protesting tears, he took her by force into his house. When she was allowed to go out again, she told the people all that had happened. The ‘warrior-priests’ of the Sera monastery heard of the affair and became so irritated about the ill-treatment of the woman that some of them came to enquire into the matter, and having ascertained what they wanted[281] went back to Sera and told their chief, who at once called out the warrior-priests.

These warrior-priests are under one chief, at whose summons they gather themselves together. Many of them were not in residence at that time, but about one thousand assembled. These were preparing to march on Lhasa to wreck vengeance on all the Palpo merchants, when the latter got wind of the matter, Sera being only about four miles from the capital. So they had fled from the city before the bellicose priests entered Lhasa, each armed with sword or a large iron hook. These men broke into the deserted houses of the merchants, and carried off what they found. Among the raiders there were, besides the priests, vagabonds of the city, who dispersed with their spoil the next morning at daybreak. Presently the merchants returned to their houses, and were much distressed to find their merchandise gone—their only property, as they owned no land. Their loss was estimated at something under 230,000 yen.

This affair became a diplomatic question, and it took over five years to settle it. The Tibetan Government had to compensate the merchants and a party of twenty-five Nepālese soldiers came to be stationed at Lhasa. The chief diplomatist in this affair on the Nepāl side was Jibbahaḍur, whose name has already been mentioned; he was the Clerk of the Nepālese Government, and is the present Nepālese Minister to Tibet.

As we walked on we found ourselves at the foot of a steep hill called Genpala, which has an incline of about two and a half miles to its top, from which I obtained my first view of Lhasa. From the summit I could see, to the north-east, the Brahmapuṭra running south-east. There is a large tributary called Kichu running from the north-east that flows into this river. It runs through a large[282] plain, in the middle of which is a mountain with a high building; and this I saw showing beautifully in the golden sunshine. This was the residence of the Dalai Lama of Lhasa, and is called Tse Potala. Beyond the castle are to be seen roofs towering high in the air, which look like those of a town. These are the streets of Lhasa, which look very small, when seen so far off. I rested for a while, and then gradually went down a great slope for about seven miles till I came to Pache, where I stopped for the night. Having walked all day in the snow and ice I was very foot-sore and fatigued, as well I might be, for I had made twenty-five miles on foot that day.

The following day, the 17th of March, I descended for another two miles and a half and found myself on the banks of the Brahmapuṭra. I walked some six miles along the southern bank of the river before I came to the ferry of Chaksam, where I had to cross the river. Formerly there was an iron bridge at this place, the remaining chains of which may still be seen a little lower down the stream. The ferry boats are rectangular in shape like Indian boats. But it is only in the winter that these boats are used, for in the summer large vessels cannot pass across. The Tibetans then use instead the yak-hide canoe. They sew together the hides of three yaks, and the seams are painted over with a sort of lacquer, to make them waterproof. These hide canoes float on the water, and are used as ferry-boats even in the winter when there are not many passengers. In Tibetan the word Kowa (meaning ‘hide’) also signifies a boat. The hide boat naturally absorbs much water and soon gets too soft and heavy for use, and the Tibetan therefore dries his hide boat in the sun after he has used it for half a day in the water. It is so light that a man can easily lift it, and the Tibetan will carry it on his back to the higher part of a[283] stream, and will float it down for a day or two loaded with goods or men. When the boat is unloaded, it is again carried up the stream. But our party being too many for a hide canoe I was ferried over the river in one of the regular wooden boats.

Walking for about three miles on the dry sandy bed of the river, I came to a beautiful place where I saw rocks and high trees casting their shadows on the water. The ground about Lake Yamdo, of which I have spoken elsewhere, is so elevated that it looks as much as 13,500 feet above sea level, but here it is only 11,500 feet high. Here, in sunny places beside the water, the buds of the willows were already out. After seeing only bald mountains and dead leaves for a long time, the green leaves were a delightful sight. Though my coolie carried my baggage, and I was not much troubled on that score, the old wounds on my feet began to smart again, and I could hardly walk. In the midst of my trouble there came along a horseman, to whom I gave a little money to carry me on horseback. About two miles and a half further on we came to a town called Chu-shur, a rather bustling place, situated in the delta formed by the rivers Kichu and Brahmapuṭra, the former running from the north-east and the latter from the north-west.

I hardly know any town on the way to Lhasa worse and more wicked than this. The people of the town are indifferent, even unkind, to strangers, and are much skilled in robbing them of their luggage. They will steal both luggage and goods in transport in such a skilful manner that they can hardly be detected. It is widely known in Tibet that no place is richer in thieves than Chu-shur and I had often been warned to be on my guard against them. There being so many skilful thieves and the place being so much frequented by travellers, there is consequently a[284] good circulation of money, and one would suppose that Chu-shur had many rich men; but strange to say, I was told upon enquiry that there were more poor men in that town than in most of the other towns and villages of Tibet.
After dining there, I started towards the north-east (on foot, as I could procure no horse) along the stream of the Kichu river and walked on until I felt so much pain in my feet that I could proceed no further. I had laid myself down on the grass to rest when, to my boundless joy, a donkey-driver came along and I was given a lift on the back of his animal for some ten miles, till I arrived at Jang. At Jang something happened that prevented my coolie from following me any further, and he deserted me. My feet were aching worse than ever, for I had travelled about twenty-five miles that day by the help of the donkey; but what to do on the following day I was at a loss to conceive. Happily I was told of some men who were going with tax-meat to the Government at Lhasa, and I asked them to take me on one of their horses. They were going to pay the tax to the Government, yet they did not take their horses from their own village, but hired them elsewhere. They did not travel more than eight or nine miles a day, and I, too, hired a horse for myself, placed my luggage in their charge, and started together with them. We halted at a little village named Nam to take rest, and here stopped for the night. On the following day we went about six miles along a narrow rocky mountain path, which ran north-east along the Kichu river, till we came to Nethang.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:45 am

CHAPTER XLV. Arrival in Lhasa.

At Nethang there is a temple of the Mothers of Salvation, who are most devoutly worshipped in Tibet, and it is said that it was founded by an Indian hermit, Shrī Aṭīsha by name, who organised a new sect in Tibet. I went there to worship the twenty-one Mothers of Salvation (Dolma Nishu tsa chik in Tibetan) whose images I found very well made. On the following day, the 20th, I again went on towards the north-east, along the river, over a plain of about five miles, till I came to a large bridge which I crossed, went on north-east for another four miles, and came to a village called Sing Zonkha, where I stopped for the night. I was to arrive at Lhasa, the capital of the country, on the following day, March 21st.

I hired a horse at the village, and asked my companions to take care of my baggage while I rode on amid the beautiful scenes of the place. After about two miles, I saw on the left a splendid monastery, which at first sight looked more like a large village, though it was in reality the Rebung monastery, the largest of the kind in the vicinity of Lhasa. It is indeed the largest monastery in the ecclesiastical district under the Dalai Lama, and has an army of priests who number some 7,700 as a general rule, though sometimes their number rises as high as nine thousand. During the summer, when the priests go out into the country on pilgrimage, there remain some six thousand only. This is one centre of Tibetan learning, and has a college. I saw in all three colleges in Central Tibet, the other two being the Sera college in Lhasa and that at Ganden.

The former has 5,500 students, and the latter 3,300. But these numbers are only nominal, and the colleges[286] can, like the Rebung monastery, take in either more or fewer students than their fixed number. At the side of the road below this monastery is a place where yaks, sheep, and goats are killed for the table of the Dalai Lama, and the Tibetans have so superstitious a regard for the sheep (seven in number) the meat of which is offered to the Dalai Lama daily, that they ask for such things as the wool and other parts of the animal as keepsakes. Besides sheep, the Dalai Lama eats other kinds of meat, which is also sent from the same place.

It is not very sensible of the Pontiff to get his meat from such a distant place, while he lives in the city of Lhasa; but he takes another view. Lhasa is too near to his palace for the slaughter of animals, and he does not want to have it thought that the animals are killed for him. He desires to get his meat without being responsible for giving the order to kill the animals. This looks very good, but since it is settled that the meat served to him shall be taken from this place, special care is taken in selecting the animals for slaughter, and at bottom, therefore, it makes no difference whether his meat is bought at Lhasa or at that particular place.

It is said that if we eat evil food, if we consume the flesh and blood of beings who were once our mother or our father, we will, in a future life, take birth in the hell of Screaming, which, of the eighteen, is one of the hot hells. To the extent that we once consumed their flesh, so now red-hot clubs of iron will be forced into our mouths, burning our vital organs and emerging from our lower parts. We will have the experience of endless pain. And even when we are born again in this world, for five hundred lives we will take birth in monstrous and devouring forms. [4] We will become demons, ogres, and executioners. It is said too that we will be born countless times among the outcasts, as butchers, fishermen, and dyers, or as carnivorous beasts thirsting for blood: lions, tigers, leopards, bears, venomous snakes, wolves, foxes, cats, eagles, and hawks. It is clear therefore that, for the gaining of high rebirth in divine or human form, and thus for progress on the path to freedom, the eating of meat constitutes a major obstacle.

Most especially, we have been taught that the primordial wisdom of omniscience arises from bodhichitta. Bodhichitta in turn arises from the roots of compassion and is the final consummation of the skillful means of the six paramitas. It is stated in the tantra The Perfect Enlightenment of Bhagavan Vairochana: [5] "The primordial wisdom of omniscience arises from bodhichitta, which arises from the roots of compassion and is the fulfillment of the entire scope of skillful means." It is therefore said that one of the greatest obstacles to the birth of bodhichitta in our minds is our craving for meat. For if great compassion has not arisen in our minds, the foundation of bodhichitta is not firm. And if bodhichitta is not firm, we may well claim a hundred times that we are of the Mahayana, but the truth is that we are not; we are not Bodhisattvas of the great vehicle. From this it should be understood that the inability to eliminate the desire for meat is an impediment to the attainment of omniscience. For this reason, all those who practice the Dharma -- and indeed everyone -- should strive, to the best of their ability, to forsake this evil food, the flesh of their parents.

Some people will object that it is said in the teachings that one only encounters the karmic result of actions that one has actually committed; no result accrues from actions not performed. In accordance with the law of karma, therefore, if one eats the meat of animals that one has not seen to have been killed for one's consumption, if one receives no report that they have been killed for that purpose, and if one has no suspicion that they might have been so killed, no fault is incurred. "It's quite all right," they will say. "We had no hand in the killing of this sheep (or whatever other animal may be concerned). We can be sure therefore that the karma of killing will not ripen upon us; it will ripen on the killers."

This argument needs to be examined closely. Let us imagine that there is a homestead in the vicinity of a large monastery where the monks eat meat. The inhabitants of the homestead calculate that if they kill a sheep and sell its best meat in spring to the monastic community, they will make a profit on the sheep since they will keep its tripe and offal, head, legs, and hide for themselves. And the monks, knowing full well that the sheep has been slaughtered and its meat preserved, will come and buy it. The following year, the family will kill more sheep and sell the meat. And if they make a good living out of it, when the next year arrives, there will be a hundred times more animals slaughtered, and the family will get rich. Thus by trying to enrich themselves through the killing of sheep, they become butchers. They will teach this trade to their children and their grandchildren and all those close to them. And even if they do not actively teach it to others, other people will see their wicked work. They in turn will become butchers doing acts of dreadful evil, and they will set in motion a great stream of negativity that will persist until the ending of samsara. Now all this has happened for one reason only: the monastic community and others eat meat. Who therefore behaves in a more consistently evil manner than they?

If there is no meat eater, there will be no animal killer -- just as in Nepal and India, there are no tea merchants because nobody drinks tea there.6 The meat eater participates in the evil action of the animal killer. And since the meat eater's action is negative, it is quite mistaken to claim that its fully ripened effect will not be negative also. The Buddha has defined as evil any action that directly or indirectly brings harm to beings. And since what he says is true, it is clear that the eating of meat most certainly involves more injury to beings than the consumption of any other food. For this reason, the Kalachakra-tantra and its commentary both declare that, of the meat eater and the animal slayer, it is the former that has the greater sin. This being so, those who still contend that the fault of meat eaters is not so severe, or that they are not as guilty as the butcher, or indeed that they are entirely innocent, are being extremely rash. But right or wrong, why must they have such eating habits? My own belief is that they would be far better off if they could only rid themselves of their dependency.

Again, let us consider the case of a small monastery where the monks are poor and have no money, or else are thrifty and tight-fisted, or else are followers of the ancient Kadampa lineage, consuming only the three white foods. It would never even cross the minds of the lay people living nearby that they might kill animals so as to supply the monks with meat. It is said moreover that the mark of a virtuous action is that it brings direct or indirect benefit both to oneself and others. I believe therefore that if one wishes to commit oneself to an ongoing habit of goodness, there is nothing better than the resolve to abstain from meat. Those few monks who do actually have compassion should keep this in their hearts!

When a lama who eats meat goes on his summer or autumn alms tour, all his faithful benefactors think how fortunate they are that he will visit their house. "He's not just any old lama," they say. "He's an incarnate tulku! We must make him a good meal." Being aware of his eating habits, they slaughter a sheep and offer him the best cuts. The benefactors, for their part, make do with the entrails and think to themselves that the sheep came to a good end. How fortunate to be killed for the lama's dinner! And they tell each other it was right to put the sheep to death and that the sheep was really one of the lucky ones. But when it comes to their next life, the killers will find out how lucky they are!

By contrast, when the visiting lama does not eat meat, not only do the benefactors kill no animals, they hide whatever meat they have and go the whole day without it. They eat other food instead, sweet potatoes, for instance, curd and so on, so that both lama and benefactor keep themselves pure and unstained by negativity-while the sheep, for its part, stays alive and well! Let us pray that all lamas behave like this. For if they display wrong actions, other lamas and incarnations who follow after them will imitate them, and the net result will be that in summer and autumn, lamas and benefactors will join forces in planting the seeds of evil action at the very moment when they turn the wheel of Dharma! Bad for themselves and bad for others, this is the source of nothing but suffering in this life and the next. What else can one say but lama konchok khyen, "O Lama and the Three Jewels, think of us!"?

Then there are other people who say, "Je Tsongkhapa and his heart sons, and other learned and accomplished masters of the past, have taught, on the strength of quotations from the scriptures, that according to the vows of Pratimoksha one is allowed to eat meat that is pure in the three ways. But nowadays," they continue, "benighted Dharma practitioners, hermits and the like, talk a lot of nonsense about this and forbid the eating of meat. They are black demons, trying to deprive the monks of their food. On the contrary, it is by eating meat that the monks keep up their strength, the better to practice the Dharma. And anyway, if the sangha were not supported in this way, it would be as if their share of food were being given to butchers and ordinary people instead-which would be an extremely vicious and inconsiderate state of affairs. In any case," they conclude, "however many times people say that meat should not be eaten, the fact is that if monks and nuns are not allowed to eat meat (unstained by negativity), it follows that ordinary people should not be allowed to eat it either. And there are many good reasons for allowing Dharma practitioners to eat meat."

People who talk like this not only eat meat on their own account; they also advocate it in formal exposition and in private conversation. It is as if demons were advising them on what to eat. For all the Buddhas of the past have declared with one voice that it is on the basis of Pratimoksha that one must cultivate bodhichitta, the characteristic attitude of the Mahayana. By training in the causal vehicle of the paramitas and thence in the resultant vehicle of the Vajrayana, one must at length become the vajra holder of all three vows. Accordingly, we who practice the Dharma now, by following and serving our teachers, first take the vows of Pratimoksha, and then by gradual degrees we exercise our minds in bodhichitta, aiming for the practices of Mahamudra, Dzogchen, Path and Fruit, Pacification, and Cho. But even if we do not manage to get this far, I think that there is no one who, having taken refuge and bodhichitta, does not renew the associated vows every day.

If people take the vow early in the morning, in the presence of the Buddhas and their teacher, to cultivate bodhichitta both in aspiration and action, pledging themselves to the ways of the Bodhisattvas; and if, by the afternoon, they are harming beings-not of course directly but nevertheless indirectly-by saying that it is permissible to eat meat (consciously ignoring what the Buddha has repeatedly taught in the context of the Bodhisattva precepts-that meat, the outcome of harm done to others, should not be consumed), it can only mean that, gorged on meat, such people have lost their wits and are babbling in delirium. For this cannot be the view of a sane person. What a wonderful contrast if instead they can honestly say, "I am practicing the teachings of the sutras and the tantras, and I am sure that my conduct is unstained by faults."

Now, from the point of view of any of the three vows, when there is an important need and benefit for others and oneself, there are many special permissions that allow what is normally proscribed. [7] But it is a mistake to think that such dispensations are granted easily, without specific need. It may be objected that Khedrup Rinpoche taught, on the basis of reasoning and scripture, that it is permissible to eat meat that is pure in the threefold way. And people will no doubt refer to his book The Outline if the Three Vows and tell us to study it.

To be sure, we should attend to this matter with intelligence and care. There is not a single syllable of the Buddha's scriptures that the lord Khedrup has overlooked. He took them all to himself as personal instructions. He demonstrated by reasoning and scripture that the sutras and the tantras are in perfect harmony and mutually support each other, thus presenting the whole range of the Buddha's teaching as a coherent path. But when on one occasion, he said that for someone who has taken the Bodhisattva vow, the teaching of the Lankavatara-sutra [8] does not contradict the Pratimoksha precepts (which sanction the consumption of fish and the flesh of cloven-hoofed animals), he was merely presenting the view of those who said that to eat with desire the kind of meat prohibited in the Pratimoksha was allowed to people who had taken the Mantrayana vows. This view, however, he went on to refute.

Indeed, the eating of meat has never been permitted for those who have taken the Bodhisattva vows. On the contrary, it is clearly said that for them the consumption of meat is forbidden. This being so, those who are addicted to meat and who shift the burden of responsibility onto Lord Tsongkhapa, his heart son Khedrup, and other teachers of the past, by claiming that they allowed it, are very far from compassion, the mental soil in which the aspiration to supreme enlightenment is cultivated. They have no karmic connection with the Bodhisatttva precepts, high, medium, or low. So let them go ahead and say what they like-that they are eating meat because they are Shravakas or because they are tantrikas. And we will see what happens to them in the end!

Some people may object that, although meat eating is indeed wrong, the texts of both sutra and tantra say that if one recites the name of the Buddhas or certain mantras and dharanis, or if one performs a short meditation on the yidam deity together with the recitation of the mantra, the fault is purified. No wrong action is thus performed. Moreover, they say, if one does all this while concentrating on the slaughtered animal, the latter will be benefited and may even be considered fortunate, karmically speaking. Granted, they continue, when ordinary people kill goats, sheep, and yaks and eat their flesh with the blood still warm, their actions are wholly wrong. But when Dharma practitioners eat meat, and when they recite over it the words of the Buddha, charged with blessings as these are, the animal itself is greatly benefited. Therefore, they conclude, it is fine to eat meat, provided one does not have an excessive craving for it. And they also excuse themselves by saying that people and circumstances practically oblige them to eat meat.

But such people are to consider as follows-then they will understand. In the past, the compassionate Buddha said in the first turning of the wheel of Dharma that negative actions should be avoided, virtuous actions should be performed, and at all times one should have a good, kind heart. The Buddha did not, as part of his original teachings, say that Dharma practitioners could and should eat meat. He gave no guarantee that by the recitation of his words (mantras and so on) meat eaters might be preserved from evil. It is best therefore to refrain completely from eating meat.

Why then did the Buddha speak about the possibility of purifying the evils involved in the killing of animals for meat, in the consumption of meat, and other negativities? In fact, he was referring to the negative actions accumulated in one's past lives, from beginningless samsara till the present, while one was sunk in ignorance. Even more, he was alluding to the actions performed earlier in one's present existence, when one had no other means of sustenance or was overpowered and oppressed by ignorance, craving, and aversion. But now, if one recognizes one's evil behavior for what it is; if one confesses it with a regret as powerful as if one had just swallowed deadly poison; and if one has a strong purpose of amendment, vowing never to repeat one's mistake even at the cost of one's life; if one recites the names of the Buddhas, mantras, and dharanis, and if one makes tsa-tsas, performs circumambulations, and so on (which, of the four strengths of confession, is the "strength of remedial practice")-one's evil actions will indeed be purified. This is the teaching. [9]

The Buddha said time and time again in the sutras such things as: "My followers should give up all evil actions that directly or indirectly injure others." One may disregard his words; one may consciously lead others to commit evil in provisioning oneself with meat. One may think, "There are always skillful means in the sutras and tantras that counteract the evil so that I shall still be pure of stain." And one can let oneself off the hook by telling oneself that there are substances to be placed into the animals' mouths and words that can be whispered in their ears and impressed upon their minds so that they will not remain in the lower realms. But to do all this reveals a complete failure to grasp the meaning of the Buddha's teaching. It is a perversion of the Dharma. To behave in this way is to act like the Chinese Muslims10 who are outside the Dharma. For their clerics say that a great sin is committed if other people kill sentient beings but that if they do the killing, there is no sin. And since, they say, the slain creatures have thus encountered their religion, it will be better for them in the future. I have heard that these clerics take sheep by the neck and kill them by cutting off their heads. If this is true, there is absolutely no difference, in action and in intention, between such people and the kind of Buddhists we have just been describing. Henceforth, therefore, those who wish to eat meat should, in addition to their earlier justifications, take a few lessons from the Muslim clerics and study their tradition! They might learn a thing or two! Perhaps it will do them good and they will escape defilement!

Just look how a cat behaves. It catches a mouse and is thrilled, thinking that it is going to kill it. But then, almost as if taking pity on the mouse, the cat lets it go and plays with it-although this is certainly no game. Later, after amusing itself for a long time, it takes the mouse in its mouth, carries it off into a comer, and devours it. This is exactly what some Dharma practitioners do! They pretend to have compassion for the goat or sheep that is about to be killed, praying for it and reciting lots of mani mantras. Then, when the animal is killed and its flesh cooked, they take it away with them to some private place where no one can see them, and they gobble it down ravenously. Lots of people do this kind of thing. I heard once about a cat that had caught a mouse and was carrying it off. But then the cat thought to play with it. When it let the mouse go, the mouse escaped and hid under an upturned basket lying nearby. The cat sat there looking under the basket, mewing softly, all sweetness and compassion. But when the mouse ran still deeper into its hiding place, the cat got all upset, looking up and down. Everyone around just burst out laughing! This is just how some modern Dharma practitioners behave! They put on a show of compassion and recite lots of manis as the sheep is being killed. But if the moment of death is long in coming, they get fretful and agitated. Whenever I am confronted with such a farce, I think that not only the Buddhas in the ultimate expanse must be laughing, but ordinary people in the world must be very amused too, when they hear about the antics of certain Dharma practitioners! Even so, if people do generate some sort of compassion and recite mantras, I do in fact think that it is of some benefit to them, even if it is not much use to the dead animal!

This whole question may be summed up by saying that, for good and compassionate practitioners of Dharma, the question as to whether one is stained or unstained by negativities is quite irrelevant. Sincere practitioners feel a natural, visceral compassion for the slaughtered goats and sheep as if they were their old mothers. They will have nothing to do with killing them for the sake of meat. On the contrary, they save life eagerly; they ransom animals set aside for slaughter and release them. Otherwise, it is like trying to punch someone who is not there. Showing compassion for animals after they have been killed and the meat is being eaten-reciting mantras for the animal's sake-is nothing but a silly game. The people who do this kind of thing may appear fine and sympathetic in the eyes of the ignorant, but when you look closely, there is nothing to recommend their conduct, either in action or intent. If people t"vist the meaning of the Buddha's words and act evilly as we have described, this is not the fault of the Buddha's teaching. It is rather that the immaculate doctrine has been distorted by the actions and intentions of others-with the result that it becomes indistinguishable from the teachings of non-Buddhist heathens. If only we could all act in such a way that this does not happen!

Generally speaking, the Buddha's doctrine naturally makes for the welfare and happiness of beings. As it is said in the prayer, "May the Buddha's doctrine, source of every joy and benefit, remain for long!" Consequently, if human beings and animals living in the vicinity of those who say they are Buddhists coexist in happiness and peace, it is a sign that the Buddha's teachings are present. But if the reverse happens and there is harm and strife, this shows that there is no doctrine near. Nowadays, however, on the pretext of collecting for the monastic community, certain monks inflict great hardship on the villages and their inhabitants, whether human or animal. [11] It is heartbreaking to see. But here, I'd better not say too much. Anyway, nobody will listen. What is more, if I point out the personal faults of Dharma practitioners in high places, they mostly respond "vith angry words. And there is a danger that those who really are powerful might catch me and cut my mouth apart "vith a knife. So I'd better watch my step. In any case, people who are really sincere and compassionate vvill be helped by even the little I have said. On the other hand, no matter how much one speaks to people who are destitute of moral conscience and a sense of propriety, the result will be nothing but trouble for the speaker. In which case, as the proverb goes, "Shut your mouth is the best advice."

Our Teacher, great in compassion and skillful means, made a first rule about meat eating for the Shravakas who had taken Pratimoksha vows, specifying that the flesh of one-hoofed animals (horses, donkeys, and so forth), as distinct from the meat of cloven-hoofed animals (yaks, cows, and sheep), was not to be eaten. Later, he made another rule saying that, apart from meat that is pure in the three ways, all flesh products are proscribed. And then, in connection with the bodhichitta vow, and considering that there is not a single being who has not been our kind parent, he forbade the consumption of any kind of meat whatsoever, including the flesh of animals that have died of natural causes. It was said by the Kadampa teachers of old that the first two rules, formulated in the Pratimoksha context, were taught in the beginning for the sake of those who had an intense craving for meat. The Buddha knew that if the consumption of meat were totally prohibited from the start, such people would be unable to embrace the Buddhist teachings. Once they had entered the Dharma, however, and as their minds had been refined-and of course for the Bodhisattvas-the Buddha set forth the principle of total abstinence from meat. What the Kadampas said is very true. When the Buddha turned the wheel of the Dharma of the great vehicle, many Shravakas elevated their minds, and many of them generated bodhichitta, the supreme mind of enlightenment. They then abstained from the consumption of flesh. Consequently it is a mistake to think that all the Shravakas were meat eaters.

The great being, the second Buddha, Lord Tsongkhapa, says repeatedly in his collected writings, and proves his words with reasoning and quotations from the scriptures, that if one understands the line of demarcation between what is permitted and what is proscribed, one will understand that the sutras and the tantras all speak with a single voice. In the context of the three vows, he explains that specific need takes precedence over prohibition. Therefore, if there is good reason for it, and in order to benefit greatly both oneself and others, it is permissible not to abstain from meat and other sense objects such as alcohol and a consort, but rather to enjoy them as an ornament of ultimate reality. But this does not mean that one is allowed to enjoy such things in the ordinary way and in the absence of perfect justification. As Lord Khedrup says in his Outline of the Three Vows, "All those who generate the mind of supreme enlightenment, Bodhisattvas of the great vehicle-how wonderful it would be if they abstained from every kind of meat. Even at the Pratimoksha level, except for meat that is pure in the three ways, no meat eating is permitted. Even in one's dreams one should never claim, because one craves for it, that meat eating is permissible."

These days, however, one only ever sees the meat of animals that have been slaughtered for food. It's rare indeed to come across meat that is pure in the three ways. And rarer still are the practitioners who have no desire for it. It would surely be better, therefore, if the loudmouths who go trumpeting the acceptability of meat eating were to reflect instead upon the measure of their faults!

Not only is the eating of large quantities of meat bad for one in the long term (for one's future lives); it is an obvious fact that, even in the present life, there are many who perish due to the toxins that meat may contain. Many times do we see and hear that when Dharma practitioners tell their benefactors that they need some meat, the latter go off and kill a sheep. And when the bursars in the monasteries say that they have big festivals coming, twenty or thirty sheep are bought from the nomads and are slaughtered in the autumn. This is a common occurrence in monasteries large and small. The result is that when one goes on pilgrimage to a monastery, intending to make offerings and pay one's respects, one is confronted by the spectacle of stacks of carcasses, before one has even seen the images of the enlightened beings. Now if this does not deserve to be called "wrong livelihood," then tell me what does! You "Dharma practitioners" who fail to see the direct and indirect injury done to the lives of goats and sheep, are you blind? Is there something wrong with your eyes? And if you are not blind, don't try to pretend that you don't know anything about it!

-- Shabkar: Food of Bodhisattvas. Buddhist Teachings on Abstaining From Meat (Excerpt), by Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol

I went on for another five miles, and came to the foot of the hill on which stood the palace of the Grand Lama, the place which I had seen from Genpala.


The palace is so splendid that even its picture looks beautiful. I am not going to describe it in detail, but there is a quaint little story about it which shows the impression it creates at first sight. A certain countryman once drove to Lhasa some asses heavily loaded with butter. He saw the magnificent palace, and was so struck with its beauty that he stood gazing at it, thinking that it must be a palace of the Gods. When he recovered himself, he was mortified to find that his asses had strayed away. When he had gathered them, he found that there[287] were nine instead of ten, and looked about anxiously to find the lost one. When asked what he was looking for, he answered that some one must have stolen his ass while he was looking at the palace, for he had come thither with ten asses. It was some time before he found that he had not counted the ass on which he was riding. This shows how the magnificence of the palace had affected him. I went half a mile along a wide road, south-east of the palace hill, and came to a bridge called Yuthok Samba, a hundred and twenty feet by fifteen, over which is built a roof in the Chinese style. I crossed the bridge and went on another hundred and twenty yards before I found myself at the western gate of Lhasa, constructed somewhat after the Chinese fashion. I passed through the gate and rode on some two hundred and fifty yards, when I came to a sort of large open court. Here I had to alight, for I was before the large temple of Buḍḍha. I enquired how the image of Buḍḍha came to be placed in the temple. It was before king Srong-tsan Gambo (who later introduced[288] Buḍḍhism into the country) was won to the religion, and when he was engaged to Princess Un-ching, a daughter of the Chinese Emperor Ta-sung of the Thang dynasty. She demanded a promise from his father that Buḍḍhism should be widely preached in Tibet, and required at the same time that she might be permitted to take with her an image of Buḍḍha, which had just been brought from India. The request being granted, the Princess took it to the city of Lhasa, where it has remained ever since.

The image was thus brought into the country by the Princess at the same time as Buḍḍhism itself. It was soon found necessary to preach a new form of Buḍḍhism and to invent new characters in which to write its teachings. So learned men, sixteen in number, were sent to India to study Buḍḍhism, and to invent new characters. Consequently, new Tibetan letters were formed, and Buḍḍhist doctrines were translated into Tibetan. Budḍḍhism was thus taught for over thirteen centuries, to the great advantage both of Tibet and of Buḍḍhism. This image of Buḍḍha was not originally carved in China, but was made by a Buḍḍhist sculptor, Vishvakarma by name, in India, whence it was introduced into Tibet through China. When I lifted up my thanks before this image of Buḍḍha for my safe arrival in Tibet, I could not help shedding tears over the goodness of Buḍḍha, which enabled me to see His image at this temple as well as at Buḍḍhagayā in India. I need not say, for the whole story shows it, how great is my faith in Buḍḍha. I do not mean that I do not respect other Buḍḍhist deities; still Buḍḍha claims the greatest worship from me, and I have entirely given myself up to Him and His religion.

There are many cheap inns and hotels in Lhasa, but as I had been informed that they were not respectable, I desired to stay with a friend, a son of the premier of Tibet. While at Darjeeling I had become acquainted with[289] this young noble, and he had offered me a lodging during my stay in Lhasa. I liked him, and did many things for him, and now, though I did not mean to demand a return for what I had done for him, I had no alternative but to go to him. So I called at his house. It was known as Bandesha—a magnificent mansion on a plot of about three hundred and sixty feet square. I entered the house and asked if he was in, but heard that my friend had become a lunatic. They told me that he had gone out of his mind two years before, and that he went mad at regular periods. I learned that he was staying at his brother’s villa at Namsailing, and was obliged to go there for him, but there also I could not find him, and was told the same thing. I waited there for over two hours, as I was told he might come, and then I reflected that it would be of no use for me to see a madman, on whom I could not depend, so I made up my mind to direct my steps to the Sera monastery, for I thought it would be better for me to be temporarily admitted in the college, and then to pass the regular entrance examinations. So I at once hired a coolie to carry my baggage, and started for the monastery.

Like the Rebung monastery, it was built on the slope of a hill, and when seen from a distance looked like a village. Guided by the coolie, I arrived at the monastery at four o’clock and at once called at the dormitory of Pituk Khamtsan, giving myself out as a Tibetan, as I came from Jangthang. Hitherto I had passed for a Chinaman, but as such I should have had to go to Pate Khamtsan, where I feared I might be detected. I had not trimmed my hair nor shaved my face, nor bathed for a long time, and I cannot have been much cleaner than a Tibetan, so I made up my mind to pass for one and to live among them. The examinations for a Tibetan might be too difficult for me; still I could command the Tibetan language almost as[290] well as a native, and I was often treated as one. I thought, therefore, that I could pass without detection, and so for my own safety I entered the monastery in this guise. The dormitory is occupied by several priests, who in turn, by the year, take the charge of the house. The then head of the dormitory was a very kind and simple old man, called La-toe-pa, and when I told him about my desire to obtain temporary admission, he gave me every particular as to what to do.

Before I go any further in my narrative, I must say something briefly about the Sera college. It is divided into three departments—Je-Ta-tsang, Maye Ta-tsang, and Ngakpa Ta-tsang. The first department contains 3,800 priests, the second 2,500 and the third five hundred. The former two departments have eighteen dormitories, named Khamtsan. They differ in size, for the small ones have about fifty priests in them, while there are over a thousand priests in the largest ones. There were two hundred priests in the house at which I stayed. Each Khamtsan has its own property, and all the Khamtsans as a whole are called Sera. These are the largest divisions of the monastery, but I will not enter into the sub-divisions.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:45 am

CHAPTER XLVI. The Warrior-Priests of Sera.

In Tibet there are two classes of priests, scholar-priests and warrior-priests, who in Tibetan are called Lob-nyer and Thab-to respectively. The former class of priests come to Sera, as their name shows, with the purpose of study, at an expense of three yen or, if they take the regular course, of eight yen a month. They graduate from the college after a study of twenty years, during which time their special study is the Buḍḍhist Catechism and philosophy, the principal course of the Sera college. As they come to the college after they have finished the study of the regular courses, most of them are from thirty to thirty-five or thirty-six years of age when they graduate, though a few clever priests receive the decree of doctor at the age of twenty-eight years.

The warrior-priests have no money to pay for a course of study in the college. They earn their way by gathering yak-dung from the fields or by carrying from the bank of the river Kichu to the monastery wood which has been brought in boats from Sam-ya-e or Kongbo. Then they serve the scholar-priests as their servants. It is also among their daily tasks to play flutes, lyres, harps, flageolets, to beat drums, and to prepare offerings for the deities. The above tasks may not be too humble for a low class of priests, but the warrior-priests have another strange daily task to do by which they deserve their strange name. Every day they repair to certain hills and practise throwing large stones at a target, and thus test their muscles. They jump, run up mountains, or leap down from high rocks. At intervals they sing popular songs as loudly as they[292] can, for they are proud of their good voices. Then they practise fighting with clubs. When they have no fixed task in the temple, they are seen going by threes or fives to their respective places of practice. The reader may wonder of what use these priests are in Tibet, and will perhaps be surprised to know that they are of great use. When, for instance, the higher class Lamas travel in the northern plains or in some remote district, they take these priests as their body guards. They are very daring. Having no wives to look after, they meet death calmly. So invincible and implacable are these fighting priests that they are the most feared of any in Tibet. They are very quarrelsome, too, though they rarely fall out with one another without some serious provocation.
They scarcely ever fight for a pecuniary matter, but the beauty of young boys presents an exciting cause, and the theft of a boy will often lead to a duel. Once challenged, no priest can honorably avoid the duel, for to shun it would instantly excommunicate him from among his fellow-priests and he would be driven out of the temple. There are chiefs among the warrior-priests, and they have rules of their own, with officers to see them well carried out. This is an open secret, and the warrior-priests are therefore allowed sometimes to do things quite unbecoming to priests or anybody else. When any grave matter occurs, the chiefs are often ordered to attend to it with the other warrior-priests.

A duel being agreed upon, both the fighters go to the appointed place, mostly in the evening. They fight each other with swords while the umpires judge their way of fighting. If either of the combatants does anything cowardly or mean, the umpire leaves the fighters to themselves, till one or the other is killed. If both fight bravely till they are wounded, the umpire bids them stop fighting.[293] He tells them to make peace, and takes them to Lhasa, where they make friends over a cup of chang (beer or wine). The use of all intoxicants being strictly prohibited in the Sera monastery, many warrior-priests, when they go to Lhasa, take the opportunity of drinking much of them, and under that influence they do many rude things.

One day, some one accidentally discovered that I was a doctor, and from that time I came to be paid undeserved respect by these priests. When they were wounded in their feet or hands during their practice they came to me for cure, and I was strangely successful with them. I think that half-civilised people are more easily cured of wounds than civilised people. A sprained arm was so easily set right, that the warrior-priests began to consider me to be a doctor indispensable among them. Besides, I scarcely ever took fees from them for their recovery, and I gave them medicine gratis, except when they offered me something in return and compelled me to accept it. This kindness won me their hearts. They saw that it often made them worse to go to a native doctor when they were wounded in a duel, while I treated their wounds, or set their bones, gratis and far better than their native doctors did. This pleased them so much that I became a great favorite among them. Everywhere I was greeted with the protruded tongue of salutation.

Besides, I was helped and guarded by them in many respects. They are very true to their duties and obligations. They may look a little rough, but they are much more truthful than the nobles and other priests of the land, who, though kind and truthful at first sight, are deceitful and crafty in seeking their own benefit and happiness. The warrior-priests are as a rule not deceitful and cunning at heart, and I have found in them many other points that claim my respect and liking. On the other hand, I was often troubled in my intercourse with the[294] Lamas, who hide a mean and crafty behavior under their warm garments of wool. So far for the two classes of priests.

I had trimmed and shaved neither hair nor beard in my journey of over ten months, so that they had grown very long. On the day after my arrival, therefore, when I got a priest to shave my head, I asked him to shave off my beard also. He wondered why I wanted to have it shaved off, and told me that it would be very unwise of me to do so when it had grown so beautiful. He seemed to think that I was joking, and I was obliged to let it grow. A beard is much valued by the Tibetans, because they generally have none, though the inhabitants of Kham and other remote provinces grow beards. They are so eager to have a beard, that after I was known to be a doctor I was often asked to give medicine to make the beard grow. They would say that I must have used some medicine to make my beard grow so long.

As my object was to be a student priest I bought a hat, a pair of shoes, and a rosary, according to the regulations of the monastery. I did not buy a priest’s robe, as I could in time use the one which had been given to me. So I went to Je Ta-tsang, chief professor of the department which I was to enter, for him to question me before I was admitted as a probationary student; but I found that no examinations were to be given. I called on the professor with a present of the best tea to be procured in Tibet. His first question was: “Where are you from? You look like a Mongolian; are you not one?” Being answered in the negative, he asked me several geographical questions, for he was well acquainted with the geography of the country. But I answered well, as I had travelled through the provinces on my own feet. It was thus settled that I might be admitted on probation. So I saluted the Lama with my tongue out, and he put his right hand on my head, as usual, and put a red cloth about two[295] feet long round my neck as the sign of my admission. The reader must know that one has to put such a piece of cloth round the neck in the presence of all noble Lamas in Tibet. I had then to appear before the priest who sees that the laws are carried out, and to get his permission, and I found that as I had a permit from the professor I could easily get the sanction of the priest, and thus I was admitted into the college. I had then to prepare myself for the regular entrance examination of the department of logic.

On the following day I found a teacher to help me in my preparation. Finding however that one teacher was not sufficient for the many subjects I had to study, I engaged a second, and I was thus soon busy preparing myself. There was a Lama living in the dormitory opposite to mine, a stout priest who seemed to be very learned. One day I was called to his room to see him, and among other questions I was asked if I had not come with a caravan of Ruto from Jangthang to the Sakya temple. I was told that among the disciples of the Lama there was one Tobten, a nice gentle Tibetan, and this person happened to be the one who had treated me very kindly during my journey with the caravan. It was this man who had asked me if I would take meat, and whom I had told that I did not take it. I had hitherto been supposed to have come from Jangthang, but now I was entirely unmasked.

“Then you are not from Jangthang,” said the Lama, and then he told me that he had heard I was a Chinaman and good at writing Chinese characters. On my confessing that I was not a Tibetan he was grieved, because he feared that my deceit might bring trouble upon the dormitory, for a Chinaman must go to Pate Khamtsan. He then asked me why I had violated the regulations of the place, and I replied that I had been robbed, as he might have heard from his disciple, at Jangthang, and that I had not money[296] enough to enter into the Pate Khamtsan as a Chinaman. Besides, I said, I should have to pay something for service every year, if I went to the Chinese house. Having told him all these secrets, I then asked him to help me to stay with him, as I could not go to the other house. The Lama said that his disciple had told him of the robbery, and that he was very sorry for me, adding that he would leave the matter till objection should be made. So I was left there without further trouble, and I passed for a man from Jangthang.
In this way I kept on studying day and night, till I had a great swelling in my shoulders. I was obliged to draw some blood from the shoulders by a device of my own, and then I went to a druggist in the city to buy some medicine, which soon cured the swelling.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:46 am

CHAPTER XLVII. Tibet and North China.

On the 7th of April I went to see a great service of prayer for the Chinese Emperor in connexion with the “Boxer” war. It was held not only at Sera, but at every temple in Tibet. At the monastery where I lived they held a secret meeting for seven days, during which time special priests offered secret prayers. They were then to perform something secret for the victory of China. On enquiry I was told that Peking was invaded by the troops of several foreign countries, and that the Chinese seemed to have been beaten. They might be too late, they said, but they prayed for the safety of the Emperor of China. I was quite anxious to know more particulars, but they were all kept secret, and no one would tell me any more.

The prayer service was held in the Tsochen Hall at Sera, and commenced with a long warlike procession. First came the players on lyres, flageolets, drums, and large flutes, followed by men carrying incense-burners. Then came ten nice looking Tibetan boys, still in their teens, all dressed in fine Buḍḍhist robes ornamented with colored Chinese crape, and each burning incense. Next followed fifty spear-like objects on each side of the road, each surmounted with a movable blade like that of a Chinese spear. These blades had hilt guards, under which hung gold brocade or fine colored Chinese crape, sixteen feet long, thus making the spear twenty-five feet long altogether. The spear, the handle of which was either of gold or gilt, seemed rather heavy, for two strong warrior-priests carried each of them. Then came a triangular board about six feet high, with various figures made of butter on it, and after it another triangular board, four feet high,[298] with some red figure made of a mixture of baked flour, butter and honey. These boards were borne by seven or eight men. After them came some two hundred priests, dressed in handsome robes and scarfs quite dazzling to the eye. Half of these beat drums, while the other half carried cymbals. After these priests came the chief Lama, who was to offer the secret prayer. He had dressed himself in the splendid robes of his high rank. Last of all his disciples followed.

Thus the procession presented a grand sight, and the people of Lhasa came out in great crowds to see it. It marched out about two hundred yards from the great hall to an open yard outside the stone fence, where the view opened as far as Lhasa. Another two hundred yards further, the procession came before a grass-roofed shed, built of bamboo, wood and straw. There the chief Lama recited something in front of the triangular figures of butter and of baked wheat, and of the spear-shaped objects, while the two hundred priests around him chanted verses from the Buḍḍhist Scriptures, and beat drums and cymbals. A priest with a pair of cymbals walked through the lines of the priests; he seemed to be a sort of band-master, for he marched through their ranks beating time. His steps and gait were very odd and different from any dancings that I had ever seen. Soon the chief Lama was seen pretending to throw away his rosary, at which signal the spear-bearers threw their spears at the shed and then the triangular board of baked flour was thrown at it also. They then set fire to the shed, at the burning of which the priests as well as the spectators clapped their hands, crying out “Lha-kyallo! Lha-kyallo!” This is a Tibetan word, meaning “surely the Gods will triumph.” Thus was the ceremony over, one of the most splendid I had ever seen in Buḍḍhism. On the following day all the priests of the monastery were invited[299] to Lhasa to attend the Cho-en Joe service, which lasted a month, to pray that the Dalai Lama of Tibet might be kept from all evil during the year. This was a celebration said to be only second in importance to the other. I also went to Lhasa, and took lodging in the house of a Palpo merchant.

In the capital I got more definite information about the Boxer trouble. Perhaps some merchants who had returned from China, or some who had came from Nepāl or some who had been to India, might have brought the news; but it was all very laughable and unreliable. Some would say the Emperor of China had bequeathed his throne to the Crown Prince and absconded, while others told me that the Emperor was defeated and was then in Sin-an. The trouble was brought about, some said, by a wicked minister, who married an English lady to the Emperor, while others asserted that there was a country called Japan, which was so strong that her troops took possession of Peking. Another said that a famine prevailed in China and people were all famished; indeed, every sort of rumor was abroad in the Tibetan capital.

I was especially pleased to hear something about Japan, even the very name of which had not yet been heard in Tibet, and some merchants told me that Japan was so powerful and so chivalrous that even when her army had taken possession of Peking, she had sent shiploads of rice, wheat and clothing to the Chinese capital to relieve tens of thousands of natives who were suffering from famine. But others would say against Japan that she could not be such a friendly country, but must have done what she had done merely out of her crafty “land-grabbing diplomacy,” as the British nation did. Rumor after rumor was making its way through Tibet, and I did not know what to believe. Only I was pretty sure that a war had broken out between China and[300] other Powers. In the meantime the Palpo merchant with whom I was staying was going to Nepāl. I utilised the occasion and through his kindness sent two letters, one to Rai Sarat Chandra Das in India, and the other to Mr. I. Hige of my native province. I was glad to find afterwards that they reached their destination, but it was very difficult to send a letter in that way; one must first see that the man by whom it is to be sent is honest and not likely to betray one’s secret, and one cannot easily trust a Tibetan. But my Tibetan had more than once been shown to be true to his trust.

The Cho-en Joe was a meeting of a kind I had never seen before. In the first place there was a Sakya temple over two hundred and forty yards square, with another and central Sakya temple, one hundred and twenty yards square. A wide pavement ran along inside the walls, where the ordinary priests sat. The same kind of pavement was found on the second and third floors. No priest was admitted into the Sakya temple but the Dalai Lama or the “greater” professors, though they did not always attend the meetings. Some twenty thousand priests attended that celebration, while over twenty-five thousand assembled on the occasion of the festival held at Lhasa for the safety of the Emperor of China. About five in the morning the sound of flutes called all the priests in Lhasa to the place of meeting. They chanted the Scriptures and were given butter and tea, as usual, three times, at intervals of thirty minutes. Of the twenty thousand very few were regular priests, the rest being either warrior-priests or loafers, who came only with the mean object of filling their stomachs. Instead of reciting from the Scriptures, therefore, they were openly doing all sorts of things during the meeting, such as singing profane songs, or pushing each other about. One could see the rowdiness of these warrior-priests, who sat there making obscene jokes, and often quarrelling with one another.

The warrior-priests being so lawless, some guard-priests are detailed to keep order among them. The guard-priest does not judge between the quarrelling priests, but strikes them any time he sees them quarrelling. So he is much feared by the other priests, who take to their huts at the first sign of his presence. Still he often takes them by surprise, and thrashes them most mercilessly on head, limbs or body, so that occasionally they even die from the effects of his rough treatment. This is not, however, considered to be murder, the perpetrator of the deed is not punished, and the body of his victim is simply thrown away for the birds to devour.

Warrior-priests train themselves for two hours in the morning. They take baked flour in tea during that time, and at the end they are given some gruel. Usually the gruel is made of rice, with much meat in it, and is given gratis. Each priest brings a bowl which holds a pint or more, and he takes a bowlful of gruel and three cups of tea. On their way back to their respective lodgings, they receive ge, which in Tibetan means ‘alms,’ from the officers. It is said that some believers give as much as twenty-five sen or fifty sen per head to each of the priests. In this respect some Tibetan merchants, landowners and high officers are very generous, for they are sometimes known to give eight or nine thousand yen in alms to these priests. There are many who give that sum in that way, and much money is known to be sent for that object from Mongolia.

There once was among these priests a Russian spy from Mongolia. He had the degree of doctor, and held the office of Tsan-ni Kenbo. He often made such donations, and his fame had spread far and wide. Such alms-giving, without religious faith, did not improve his spiritual condition in the least; but so many merchants[302] give money for the sake of their business, that this doctor was content to think his alms had also promoted his virtue. In these ways the priests get much money, and the festival season is the best time of the year for them. Sufficiency begets bad conduct, and it is during such times that the priests are most contentious and vindictive, and that duels are most frequent. A duel is not generally fought in Lhasa itself; as a rule they only appoint the place and time for it and fight it after they get back to their own dormitories, because while they are in Lhasa they are under the authority of the magistrate priest of the Rebung temple, and not of their own temples. This magistrate is known to be so severe, strict and exacting, that they are afraid to fight a duel before him, and they patiently wait till they return to their own temples.

On the day that the great celebration was over, I saw a festival procession. First came groups dressed as the four divine kings, followed by the eight devil kings, each with a special mark. Each group was followed by three or five hundred priests, differently dressed. Unlike a religious procession in Japan, which is as a rule very solemn, the Tibetan procession marched in a sportive manner, for the persons in it played with one another while moving. They would even joke with the spectators. They carried in the procession various treasures and musical instruments, such as drums, lyres, pipes, flageolets and Indian flutes, the most attractive objects being some imitations of dragons. There were many strange figures formed, as they told me, after the model of the treasures of the submarine dragon’s palace. Imitations were there of every instrument, treasure, or dress found in Tibet, and of the old costumes that are found in Tibetan history; and several Indian tribes were to be seen in the long procession of over two and a half miles. It is impossible to[303] enter into details, as I saw it only once; my memory does not serve me for other particulars.

This procession had one of the strangest of origins. It is said that Ngak Wang Gyamtso, the fifth Pontiff of the New Sect, devised the procession after one which he saw in a dream in the Buḍḍhist Paradise, and it seemed quite fitting that such a curious procession should have so vague an origin.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:47 am

CHAPTER XLVIII. Admission into Sera College.

I did not see as much of the festival as I might have done, because I had to go through my formal entrance examinations before the festival was entirely over, and I devoted all spare moments to preparation. Once more I overworked myself, but I bought some more medicine, and was soon well again. This caused no little wonder among my neighbors, and I was often asked if I had studied medicine. I must have studied it, they would say, because I could cure my own illness, and I was obliged to tell them that I had read a few books on medicine. This led me to practise it among them afterwards.

Before the celebrations were over, I went back to my own monastery for my examination. It was on April 18th that I presented myself with forty other candidates. I was given both written and oral examinations, besides the recitation of a passage from the Scriptures. The examinations were such as are generally given to those who have finished the common course in Tibetan schools. They were not so difficult for me as I had expected, and I was admitted to the college, though all were not equally fortunate, for only seven out of the forty passed. Among the successful members were a few warrior-priests also. They had run into debt, and had since studied hard to be admitted. But, let me say, their object was something more than mere study. Scholarships were awarded, from fifty sen to one yen and sometimes two yen a month per scholar-priest. The amount was not fixed, but it generally came to some ten yen a year. It was on account of that sum of money that many warrior-priests tried to pass the examination. I was admitted as a student of the[305] first class, in which priest-students varying from boys in their teens to men in the forties and fifties were studying the Buḍḍhist catechism, according to the Tibetan fashion. Their way of studying was so interesting and active, and they were so earnest and fervent, that one would have thought they were quarrelling with one another while discussing.

The catechism is a very pleasant performance, and the ways of questioning, emphasis, and intonation are quite interesting. The catechised sits in a certain attitude, and the questioner stands up with a rosary in his left hand, and walks towards him. He stretches out his hands with the palm of the left hand downwards and that of the right hand upwards and claps them together, uttering the words, Chi! chi tawa choe chan. Here ‘Chi’ means the heart of the Boḍhisaṭṭva Mañjushrī and its utterance is supposed to make the questioner one with Him, whose real body is knowledge. The rest of the utterance literally means, “in that nature of the truth.” The sense of the whole is “We shall begin the discussion following the nature of Truth as it is manifested in the Universe.” Then the discussion begins in earnest according the rules of the logic of Nyāya. The first question, for instance, may be whether Buḍḍha was human or not. Whether the answer is in the affirmative or the negative, the questioner goes on to ask; “But he was not above mortality, was he?” If he be answered in the affirmative, he will say that it could not be so, for Buḍḍha was no more than mortal. The answerer, if bright enough, will then reply that Buḍḍha, though himself above death, submitted himself to it in his incarnated body. He must say also that Buḍḍha had three bodies, called in Saṁskṛṭ Ḍharmakāya, Sambhogakāya and Nirmānakāya, and in Tibetan, Choeku, Lonjoeku and Tulku. These terms mean: ‘The all pervading body consisting of the purest[307] virtue of Truth in him’, ‘the body derived from his countless virtues, enjoying complete happiness with the light of Truth,’ and ‘the body derived from his boundless mercy and transcendental knowledge for the good of all beings.’


If the catechised shows any weak point in his answers, the questioner never fails to take advantage of the opportunity, and drives him on, saying for example that Buḍḍha was a real man born in India. Whether the answer be in the affirmative or negative, he will go on asking many questions in succession, and that with so much animation that, when he utters the words of a question, he beats time with hands and feet. The teacher always teaches the catechists that the foot must come down so strongly that the door of hell may be broken open, and that the hands must make so great a noise that the voice of knowledge may frighten the devils all over the world, by a fearless heart and a brave attitude. The object of the questions and answers is to free the mind from all worldliness, and to get into the very bottom of Truth, giving no power to the devils of hell in the mind.

To show how excitedly the catechism is carried on, it is said that a countryman once came to see the scene. The question happened to be about physiognomy (kan-sa), which in Tibetan is synonymous with a tobacco-pipe. The countryman thought that they were disputing over a tobacco-pipe, and was very much surprised that a pipe should be the matter of the quarrel, for the priests were seemingly very much provoked and railed at each other and exchanged blows! Three years later, the same countryman came to worship at the temple of Sera, and again happened to see the priests disputing hotly about what he thought to be a pipe. He saw them strike each other at the end of the dispute, and felt very sorry for them. So he thought he would settle the dispute by arbitration. He then walked among the priests, holding out his pipe,[308] which he meant to give them. Though it was none of his business to come among the priests, he offered the pipe and begged them to settle the dispute, thereby causing great laughter among them. It is with such excitement and with hardly any formality that the questions are asked and answered. Still it must not be supposed that one could answer these questions without a knowledge of Buḍḍhism. One has to read many texts and reference books before one can go through these questions. It takes the natives twenty years of hard and unceasing study, with examinations every year, to obtain the degree of a doctor.

The catechism forms the chief part of the education of Tibetan priests. This method seems to excite so great an interest among priest-students that there are always many Mongolians in Tibet, who come so far and through so much hardship with the sole object of receiving education there. There are three hundred Mongolians at the Sera college, and hardly fewer at other large temples, such as that of Tashi Lhunpo. The New Sect of Buḍḍhism owes a great deal of its fine prospects to its catechism, while the Old Sect has already lost popularity and is now tottering. It is by this spirited Catechism that the naturally dull and lazy Tibetans are goaded on to understand Buḍḍhism, and are very rich, for a half-civilised nation, in logical ideas. But let me add, it is only the learned that are rich in logical ideas; the people at large, who have received little education, are far from being intelligent.

The Catechism is generally held at some beautiful place, where there are many fine trees, such as elms, willows, nuts, peaches and various others which are not found in Japan, though on the whole Tibet does not possess a large variety of trees. The ground under the trees is covered with beautiful white sand. When the first Catechism is over, the priests have what is[309] termed the Garden of Truth, at some equally well-wooded place, where there are varieties of flowers. The ground there is also covered with white sand, and enclosed by stone walls five or six feet high with a gateway constructed in Chinese fashion. The priests gather themselves there to read from the Scriptures, and after the reading, they begin questioning one another. Here they make no difference of classes, but ask one another concerning their text books and everything else. This helps them a great deal to improve their knowledge and wisdom.

At the other place, there may be no more than one questioner and one answerer, the rest keeping silence, whether the class consist of fifty or a hundred priests. The questioner and the answerer might change, but they could be taken only from that one class. In the garden, however, there are no such limitations, there is no difference of classes, and young and old priests are seen questioning each other. So one may easily fancy how noisy and excited they are. While I was having a Catechism among them under a peach-forest in blossom, snowflakes began to fall on us. I stopped questioning and, struck with the beautiful scene around me, I wrote two Japanese poems which served to give my friends at home some idea of my thoughts.

In spring the blooming flowers of the peach
Are fully blown in “Dharma-garden” there,
Greeting with welcome glee the friendly snows.
Under their shades the wrangling priests discuss,
With their vehement, uncouth gestures strange,
Their doubts to melt, like to the melting snows
Beneath these trees emitting odours sweet.

Day and night I studied in this way. But finding soon that it left me too many precious hours to have only one teacher, I now found another priest to teach me. I went to them to receive their instruction, while they too sometimes came to teach me. I thus made considerable progress in my learning.

There is a strange custom which a new college student has to observe as a sign of his admittance. I had to go to Lhasa and to travel, as a sign of my admittance, for two days to beg for fuel. But one day a young priest next door quarrelled with another young priest and hit him with a stone, which dislocated the bone of his upper arm. The wounded lad was a special favorite of his instructor, who feared very much that he might be deformed. Bone-setting is quite unknown to the Tibetans, and their doctors, who have no knowledge of how to set a dislocated bone, apply heated iron, or give some medicine to drink or use. I was on my walk and happened to hear the pitiful cries of the wounded boy, and was told, when I asked why they did not send for a doctor, that it was far better not to do so, as it would only be a heavy expense for nothing. They were not going to have one. When I asked if no doctor in Tibet could set a dislocated bone, they seemed to be much surprised at my improbable question. It was with some difficulty that I made them believe that a dislocated bone can be easily set. So going to the wounded boy, I easily set his bone, while a Tibetan held his head and left hand. Then I acupunctured that part where the muscle was a little swollen, and the boy was soon cured.
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